CBT and Social Anxiety Disorder

CBT and Social Anxiety Disorder

What was the aim?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is considered one of the most effective treatments for Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), however a considerable proportion of people who complete the treatment continue to show symptoms after treatment. More research is therefore needed to improve treatment and patient outcomes.

Cognitive models of social anxiety emphasise the central role of the self in maintaining the disorder. The following study therefore aimed to present an overview of the literature investigating how self-related constructs (e.g., self-awareness, -beliefs, -schema, -evaluation, etc.) change during and following CBT for SAD, and whether change in these variables had any effect on patients’ experiences of social anxiety.

How did we do it?

This research comprehensively reviewed the literature and identified 41 existing studies that examined how self-related constructs change during CBT for SAD, and how this relates with social anxiety improvement. 

What did we find?

Pre- to post-treatment reductions were observed in self-related thoughts and beliefs, self-esteem, self-schema, self-focused attention, and self-evaluation. Change in self-related constructs tended to be related to social anxiety reduction, however relatively few studies examined this. No study was found that examined whether the way the self is organised within individuals (i.e., self-structure) changes over CBT for SAD. 

What does this mean in practice?

This research outlines to clinicians the importance of identifying and modifying dysfunctional self-related content and processing when treating SAD. The findings could lead to improvements in social anxiety treatments and better outcomes for patients.

Citation: Gregory, B., & Peters, L. (2016). Changes in the self during cognitive behavioural therapy for social anxiety disorder. Clinical Psychology Review, 52, 1-18. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2016.11.008

Free access to research available until 18 January, 2017

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