Therapy Interventions for Social Anxiety
Are you interested in finding out what’s involved in interpersonal therapy (IPT) for social anxiety? IPT is just one type of talk therapy that is used to treat social anxiety.
This type of therapy was first developed for use with depressed clients by psychologists Myrna Weissman and Gerald Klerman. IPT therapy was designed to take place over a period of 3 to 4 months.
While IPT is not usually the first type of therapy recommended if you have social anxiety, it might be useful if other types of therapy (such as cognitive-behavioral therapy) or medication have not worked for you.
IPT can also be useful to help you improve your relationships if they’ve been affected by your social anxiety. That’s actually the main goal of this type of therapy: to improve how you feel about your friendships and relationships.
Phases of Therapy
It usually follows a structured format broken down into three phases:
This phase takes place over the initial few sessions and involves figuring out what relationships in your life have been affected and what problems you are having.
For example, if you avoid doing things because of social anxiety or have trouble being assertive, then those are areas you might focus on during therapy.
Addressing Your Problems
During the middle phase of IPT, you’ll work with your therapist on the problems that you identified during Phase 1.
Specific things that you might work on during therapy include the following (but there could be lots more that you cover!):
- how to talk to people or have conversations
- how to resolve conflict
- how to express your opinion
- how to be assertive
- how to prepare for unfamiliar social situations
- how to cope with talking to strangers
- how to communicate in a relationship
Review Progress and Next Steps
In the last phase of therapy, you and your therapist would talk about how you are doing and prepare for the end of the therapy sessions.
Are you curious what sort of techniques your IPT therapist will use with you? Below are some of the things to expect:
Are you aware of how your thoughts or behaviors are affecting your social interactions? Is it possible that you have biases or misconceptions (e.g., seeing the world as generally judgmental) that affect how things go for you with other people?
This is something that your therapist will help you to figure out, since it is likely affecting your friendships and relationships.
One of the most important things that your therapist will do for you during IPT is to just listen and be supportive, without offering judgment or criticism.
This is crucial, since as a person with social anxiety it can sometimes feel hard to open up. If your therapist is not a supportive listener, it might be time to switch to someone else.
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Nah, I’m not talking about Dungeons and Dragons (of course!). No, role playing is used during therapy to help you get practice with different social situations.
This is a brilliant use of time in therapy, since your therapist can take on the role of the other person in the interaction (e.g., the stranger with whom you must make small talk, the acquaintance you’d like to turn into a friend).
It’s terribly hard to practice this stuff on your own reading self-help books, so that’s where your therapist comes in.
During communication analysis, your therapist would ask you to describe a social interaction that caused you a lot of anxiety.
Then together, you would figure out what went wrong and how you can handle the situation differently in the future.
This type of analysis gets at any patterns of behavior that you’ve developed that might be hurting you more than helping you.
Do you struggle to express or manage your emotions? Another thing your therapist can do is to help you learn how to better express yourself.
This might mean showing more emotions if you tend to hold them inside, or becoming better at regulating emotions if they tend to overwhelm you.
Comparison With CBT
So, you might be thinking—but what are the benefits of this type of therapy, specifically?
In a critical review study, it was found that IPT showed better outcomes for people diagnosed with social anxiety disorder than psychodynamic therapy, but not as good outcomes compared to cognitive behavioral therapy.
This means that if you have a choice, CBT might be the better option than IPT. However, if you’ve tried CBT and it didn’t work, then IPT might be helpful.
Where to Find Therapy
What if you don’t even know where to look for therapy?
While the best option is probably to see your primary care doctor and ask for a referral, for some people with social anxiety even that can seem daunting.
Plus, you might not be all that interested in attending in-person therapy.
And if you’re not ready for therapy or have mild or moderate social anxiety, be sure to sign up for our newsletter (at the bottom of this post) to receive free resources and be notified of new offers.
Related Posts about Therapy for Social Anxiety
- Hypnotherapy for Social Anxiety
- 5 Benefits of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Social Anxiety
- 5 Benefits of Pet Therapy for Social Anxiety
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Interpersonal Therapy for Social Anxiety
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