Group Or Individual CBT For Social Anxiety

Social Anxiety Help

Larry Cohen, LICSW

Group Or Individual CBT For Social Anxiety

For a handout detailing the relative merits and limitations of group and individual CBT for social anxiety, click here.

Depending on your need, preferences and resources, you have the option of doing cognitive-behavioral therapy to help you overcome your social anxiety in one-on-one individual work or in specialized social anxiety CBT groups. Both individual and group CBT are, on average, equally effective, according to outcome studies. But depending on the person, group and individual each offer different advantages:

Advantages of individual CBT for social anxiety:

  • Much more flexible in scheduling of sessions, and in the frequency and duration of therapy
  • Much more individualized attention and assistance from therapist, which is especially helpful for persons who have difficulty doing therapy homework their own, or who have multiple problems
  • Can work on other problems in addition to social anxiety
  • You will probably feel less anxious in session

Advantages of social anxiety CBT groups:

  • Less expensive
  • Opportunity to identify with others who share similar experiences and problems, and feel less alone or odd
  • Opportunity to support others and be supported by others, which tends to feel good and help one another make more rapid progress
  • Opportunity to do many in-session and homework experiments with other group members
  • Opportunity to make friends with people who share a common therapy experience, which is a good way to keep making progress after group is over
  • You will probably will feel more anxious in group sessions, which is a great opportunity to learn how to overcome your anxiety in a safe setting.
  • Groups serve as a safe “laboratory” to explore how we relate to others, and to experiment here-and-now with new ways of relating in a safe setting.
  • Many (but not all) group members make more rapid progress because they tend to do their self-chosen therapy homework more regularly than they do in individual CBT, perhaps because of the requirement to report on the homework they did each week to the whole group.

You may be thinking that a group is the last place you’d want to do therapy! After all, many people are more likely to experience their social anxiety in group settings than one-on-one. Perhaps you may already have been in a therapy or support group before, and perhaps you have felt lost, unable to participate or dominated by more outgoing group members.

But imagine how different things are in a group made up of people who are socially anxious, and with a structured format designed to help members feel more comfortable participating. Sure, you may be likely to experience more social anxiety in a group setting, but I help you turn that to your advantage. I help make the group a safe place for each member to explore what is causing their social anxiety here-and-now, and experiment with healthy ways of overcoming that anxiety in the group itself.

However, many people prefer individual CBT to group CBT to help them overcome their social anxiety and other problems. Individual cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy and counseling provides you with much more personalized attention than does group, which is especially helpful for those wanting to work on overcoming other problems in addition to their social anxiety, or who have difficulty doing therapy homework on their own. Furthermore, individual CBT allows for much greater flexibility as to the scheduling of sessions and the length of treatment. The basic therapeutic approach is the same in individual and group CBT, and you can make great progress in either modality.

What is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Common Therapy Goals in CBT for Social Anxiety

Some CBT Strategies & Skills to Overcome Social Anxiety

Group or Individual CBT for Social Anxiety


If you have any questions or comments, please email Larry Cohen, LICSW, with offices in Washington, DC.

Social Anxiety Help is a founding regional clinic of the National Social Anxiety Center (NSAC):