With all of these different treatments to consider, you may also be asking if you should try and do this yourself (self-help) or if you should seek a professional.
I do believe that everyone can benefit from self-help, but if your social anxiety is very severe, you should probably seek a professional.
If your anxiety is mild to moderate, then I would go the self-help route first. Some people will be able to overcome social anxiety purely through self-help means. I think there is something to be said about self-reliance and overcoming your own social anxiety. It’s a wonderful accomplishment!
If self-help isn’t enough, then the next step would be to seek a professional. There is nothing wrong with taking that approach – it actually takes quite a bit of courage to go see a professional. The last thing someone with social anxiety wants to do is go ask someone else for help! Ironic, isn’t it?
If you do seek a professional, learning about the various techniques available, will help you. It will reinforce what you learn in the counseling sessions. If you get a therapist, they will likely get you to challenge your anxious thoughts and develop an exposure plan.
To find the best therapists with the most experience, I recommend you check out the following:
Anxiety Disorders Association of America
Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies
Make sure they are experienced with social anxiety. If you don’t feel comfortable with your therapist, ask for another one. This is easier said than done (especially for someone with social anxiety), but there is no point in sticking with someone you don’t feel comfortable around.
Additionally, ask them how many sessions they think it will take to make improvements and meet your goals. Ask them how long each session is, the cost, and the frequency of sessions. Ask where the sessions will be held and if it is on an individual or group basis? Ask if your therapist is going to be a psychologist, social worker, nurse, or physician? Psychologists are best equipped to deal with social anxiety, so ideally, I would aim for that.
Now, if you decide to go the self-help route, this doesn’t mean that you can’t involve family members, friends, or a helper in your treatment plan. They can help you with role play practices and provide you constructive criticism. Ensure that you choose someone that is supportive and trustworthy.
Ok, now that you have considered your need for change, your goals, different treatment options it is time to develop your comprehensive treatment plan!