Rose Record, MA, CCC, is a Canadian Certified Counsellor with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA). She has a Master of Arts Degree in Counselling Psychology completed at the University of British Columbia. Rose is a member of the MDABC therapy team. This fall she will be leading therapy groups for adults on Social Anxiety and Depression, for more information go to www.mdabc.net
In your experience, how can social anxiety get in the way for people who want to feel more connected?
Social anxiety is an experience of fear, worry and/or anxiety in social situations where there is a possibility of being observed and/or scrutinized by other people. This can get in the way of feeling connected to others in many different ways. It can lead to intense worry or fear of being embarrassed, judged, or not performing well in public and/or social situations. It can also lead to worry that anxiety will “show” in ways such as trembling, blushing, sweating or being “lost for words”. This fear can be so intense that even thinking about or anticipating being in social situations can feel overwhelming. Common consequences of social anxiety are reduced enjoyment of social situations, limiting participation in social activities, or avoiding being in feared situations or in public altogether.
Which strategies do you use in your therapeutic practice to help clients with social anxiety?
When supporting individuals experiencing social anxiety, the first strategy is often to build an understanding of what is going on during an anxiety response and working together to determine what their unique anxiety situations and anxiety responses are (everyone is different!). Then, we start to break responses down into the thoughts, emotions, physical feelings and behaviours involved and identify strategies that can help to re-work the responses. Many of the strategies I use are aimed at looking at our patterns of thinking and challenging/replacing unhelpful patterns of thinking with thoughts that may be more fair and helpful. Through this process, we also start to uncover core beliefs that shape our thinking about others, the world and ourselves. Other strategies are aimed more at shifting behaviors in our lives such as setting goals and taking small steps to reduce avoidance and build tolerance for being in feared situations. Finally, relaxation and mindfulness strategies are introduced to help clients to tune into their bodies, to physically slow down anxiety responses and to build self-acceptance.
Do you find working with clients with social anxiety rewarding?
Absolutely! One thing I love about group therapy for social anxiety is that it provides a safe, supportive space for clients to learn, share, set goals and build coping strategies. Through that process, clients often build confidence, skills and take steps toward doing things in their lives that are important or fulfilling to them, whether that be trying something new, meeting new people or simply becoming more comfortable and confident in social situations in general. As a therapist, it’s very powerful walking alongside clients in their therapeutic journey.
What can clients expect at the first session of the “CBT for Social Anxiety” course that you are leading?
Our first session is really about establishing a foundation from which we’ll build on for the next 8 weeks. We’ll spend time talking about the group itself – learning what CBT is (and isn’t), building group goals, and setting up some basic structure to the sessions so everyone knows what to expect each week. Then, we’ll talk a bit about what social anxiety is and learn the basics of what happens during an anxiety response and how to track it. Finally, in each session we’ll learn a new relaxation or mindfulness technique and for our first session, we’ll focus on the basics of deep breathing. In every session, some “homework” is also suggested, which basically consists of ideas for how group members can continue to practice and try out the skills we learned in class throughout the week and start to integrate them into their day-to-day lives.