Counselling for Social Anxiety: How a Psychologist Can Help
Putting off making important appointments, avoiding phone calls, dreading the thought of speaking to the cashier during your grocery run, declining party invitations that you wish you could accept…
Sound familiar? Social anxiety is widespread and can have varying degrees of impact, whether you’re prone to social anxiety tendencies, or you have social anxiety disorder — also known by its melancholic acronym, SAD, or social phobia.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Around 11% of Australians experience social anxiety during their lifetime
However, despite the millions of SAD sufferers out there, the majority never seek professional treatment. This will often exacerbate their condition and leave them feeling more isolated and alone.
If you’re looking to take charge and seek treatment before your social anxiety gets out of control and severely impacts your daily life, the best way to do that is to see a professional counsellor or psychologist.
There are many ways to identify whether you have social anxiety — and the most effective is getting a diagnosis.
There’s a huge difference between simply being shy or nervous and having a social anxiety disorder.
Generally, you can identify social anxiety based on:
- Its interference in your everyday life
- The intensity of your fear and anxiety
- Your behaviours and patterns of avoiding certain situations
The best way to know for sure is to reach out to a healthcare professional — especially if you believe you’re experiencing ongoing, intense symptoms in social situations.
A psychologist can diagnose social anxiety disorder based on the SAD criteria, tools, tests, and questions about your symptoms and history. From there, they can recommend the best course of treatment.
Counselling for social anxiety provides you with a safe environment where you can not only explore your thoughts and feelings in great detail but also learn and improve skills you need in order to make meaningful changes to your life.
Your psychologist can help you to manage your social anxiety through the following practices:
Mindfulness-based therapies teach you how you can deal with the fear that comes with social anxiety — more than just shyness or nervousness, social anxiety results in real fear that must be faced.
This approach helps you gradually become more comfortable in social situations through relaxation exercises and by focusing on the present rather than the past or future.
The ultimate goal is for you to feel that you no longer have to avoid social situations.
During psychodynamic therapy sessions, you may look within yourself and reflect on the things in the past that may have influenced your social anxiety, such as the following:
- Early childhood experiences
- Interpersonal relationships
- Unconscious processes
Psychodynamic therapy focuses on creating a deeper understanding of how your emotional and behavioural patterns are formed. By addressing the root causes, you’ll become better equipped to deal with the issues at hand.
Graded Exposure Therapy
Social anxiety causes real fear… and you know what they say about your fears…
A slightly more confronting approach, graded exposure therapy can desensitise you to your social anxiety triggers. Exposure therapy can take place in controlled, supportive environments, so you don’t have to worry about being put on the spot.
Graded exposure therapy puts you in feared social situations until your anxiety decreases or your anxiety-related expectancies are disrupted.
By the end of it, facing those situations will be as easy as avoiding them used to be!
We saved the best for last.
As one of the most versatile and reliable psychological treatments, cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is extremely effective in counselling for social anxiety.
80% of people treated for social anxiety have benefited from CBT strategies that include:
- Challenging unhelpful thoughts
- Analysing and reframing behaviour patterns
- Forming positive coping strategies
- Building self-esteem and confidence
Cognitive behavioural therapy will take place over multiple sessions.
One of CBT’s greatest strengths is that it teaches you vital skills that you can carry with you through the rest of your life, even after you stop attending counselling.
This is one of the most successful treatments for individuals with social anxiety disorder.
Fight Fire with Psychology
You may want to look at counselling for social anxiety like you’re fighting a fire. Having social anxiety might sometimes feel like you’re on fire — getting hot and sweaty with alarm bells going off in your brain.
You might ask questions like: ‘Where is this coming from?’ or ‘Why am I feeling this way?’
Your psychologist, like a firefighter, will find out what is fuelling it, keeping it alive inside you.
Once they’ve found the fuel — whether it’s recurring negative thoughts, avoidant behaviours, poor self-image, or something else — they can start working to put out the fire using the best possible method.
Together, you’ll be able to hose down the flames and do whatever it takes to stop the cycle and prevent the fire from consuming you.
It’s not easy living with social anxiety disorder, but you can rise above it with professional and tailored counselling sessions. With the help of your psychologist, you’ll be able to fight this battle — and win.
If you’ve read this article and are unsure whether you have social anxiety (after all, a related form of anxiety is second-guessing yourself), we encourage you to reach out to a healthcare professional and ask for a diagnosis.
And, if you already know you have SAD or have received a diagnosis, then the best course of action is to seek out professional counselling for social anxiety. At New Vision Psychology, our experienced psychologists are especially skilled at treating social anxiety and social phobia. With over 30 psychologists across 5 locations, we’re typically able to book you in within a week.
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