People with social anxiety disorder benefit from group therapy that targets the negative mental images they have of themselves and others, according to a study at the University of Waterloo. Called “imagery-enhanced” cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), the new group treatment helps relieve symptoms including social performance and interaction anxiety, depression, and stress.
More than 4 million Canadians will develop social anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. Without treatment, the disorder can impair people’s functioning at school, work, and relationships.
The 13-session treatment used specialized exercises including video feedback and imagery rescripting, where patients are guided to reimagine the outcomes of past negative experiences and to challenge distorted images of themselves and others. The goal was to see if the successes achieved in a pilot and open trial could be replicated in a different setting, without input from the treatment developers. The results were strikingly similar in treatment retention and symptom improvement, strongly suggesting that imagery-enhanced group CBT is effective.
The study suggests that this new group therapy may work as well as individual therapy, but at half the cost per patient.
The study, “Transportability of imagery-enhanced CBT for social anxiety disorder,” appears in Behaviour Research and Therapy.
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