Department of Psychiatry

Penn Behavioral Health

Social Anxiety Disorder

Treatment of Social Anxiety at the CTSA

The Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety offers cognitive-behavioral therapy for social phobia. Techniques used in this therapy include examining fearful thoughts, social skills training, and practicing social interactions. Medications may be used by themselves or in combination with cognitive-behavioral therapy in the treatment of social phobia.

The treatment program begins with the therapist and patient outlining a model of the patient’s social anxiety by evaluating factors that help to maintain the anxiety. As treatment progresses, the patient's safety behaviors and avoidances are identified and a hierarchy of avoided situations to which the patient will expose themselves to is created. Other treatment techniques (such as video feedback, surveys, imaginal exposure, social skills training, and assertiveness training) are also used on an as needed basis. Most sessions include at least one exposure to a feared situation and exposures are also assigned each week for homework. Accordingly, the patient has repeated opportunities to practice being in the feared situations, thereby gathering evidence about the probability of the feared outcomes in these social situations.  Treatment concludes with work on relapse prevention and goal-setting for continued success.

Eligibility

Before entering a treatment program at the Center, patients first complete a phone screening interview with one of our intake coordinators. If appropriate, patients then schedule and complete an extensive psychological evaluation with a clinician. Patients are interviewed at length and complete a number of specialized assessment forms to ensure an accurate diagnosis. The information gathered during this evaluation is used to determine if the person has an anxiety or stress problem and which treatment best matches the patient's needs. The results of the evaluation are discussed with the patient and treatment recommendations are offered. If the evaluation indicates that the treatment programs at the Center are appropriate for the person, then arrangements for treatment will be made following the evaluation.


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