What is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Social Anxiety Help

Larry Cohen, LICSW


Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (also called Cognitive Behavior Therapy, or simply Cognitive Therapy) is a practical, results-oriented approach in which you learn specific skills and strategies to help you overcome personal problems and to achieve personal goals that you choose for yourself.

CBT is based on the fact that our thoughts, feelings, behaviors, biology, and life circumstance all influence each other. Therefore, if we are having problems in one area–anxiety and social interaction, for example–we can make changes in our thinking and behavior that can help us feel better and achieve our goals.

A central premise in CBT is that how we feel about a situation is affected by our thoughts about the situation–the self-talk and images that go through our mind–as well as our core beliefs about ourselves and the world.

Two different people might feel very differently in the same situation–one person very socially anxious, the other person comfortable and confident–in part because they have very different thoughts and beliefs about the situation and themselves. For example, the socially anxious person may believe s/he is socially unskilled and uninteresting, and that s/he is likely to make a bad impression when meeting new people at a social activity. The calm and confident person in the very same situation may believe s/he is a likable, interesting person, and that if someone at a social activity doesn’t enjoy talking to him/her, that most other people at the social likely will.

A cognitive-behavioral therapist will help you figure out the vicious cycles you unintentionally engage in, such as cycles of distorted thoughts, upsetting feelings, unhealthy core beliefs, and self-defeating behaviors. These vicious cycles help cause your problems and make you feel stuck. Then you experiment with different way of breaking those vicious cycles by applying the skills and strategies that you learn and practice in CBT.

It’ll take hard work and determination on both of our parts. But if you’re really committed to doing the therapy homework regularly–homework that you choose for yourself in collaboration with your therapist–you’re likely to be making significant progress toward your goals in a matter of a few months.

Many outcome studies have demonstrated CBT to be one of the most effective approaches to overcoming social anxiety. One of the key advantages to CBT is that it’s an empowering form of therapy, aimed at training you to become your own personal therapist. In other words, in CBT you learn and put into practice insights, skills and strategies that you can continue using on your own to help you reach further goals and handle future problems.

Cognitive Restructuring & Mindfulness for Social Anxiety

Video broadcast to the Andrew Kukes Foundation for Social Anxiety in March, 2016.

For more information, please read:

CBT is Most Effective Treatment for Social Anxiety (Medscape Medical News),

National Public Radio feature on CBT for social anxiety.

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): nationalsocialanxietycenter.com