You suffer from social anxiety and are craving professional help, but there is one paradox holding you back: your fear of doing so. Like most people with social anxiety disorder, you refrain from seeking help because you are afraid of the in person encounters with another human being. Admittedly, a stranger who might expect you to share your most profound vulnerabilities with her or him. So whenever you pick up the phone to make that call or you log in to your email account to send that message, you end up changing your mind. “Some other day I’ll be able to do it”, you think to yourself.
But what if there were another way you could receive professional help? Help that does not presuppose face-to-face contact with another person? That’s what online treatments for social anxiety disorder seem to promise, and that’s what many SAD sufferers seem to be looking for.
However, the reactions of psychotherapists to the emergence of such interventions have been mixed. Some have criticized that instead of addressing the fear of social interaction by having the person experience it in a safe, therapeutic environment with a therapist, online programs for SAD endorse social avoidance and do not force the individual outside of her or his comfort zone.
They might have a good point, I would argue, but they forget about the fact that four out of 5 people never receive help related to their condition. If 80% of affected people are too afraid to seek face-to-face therapy, we have to start focusing on possible solutions. Furthermore, well designed online programs make the initiation process easier for the individual, but are based on the premise that a successful intervention for SAD sufferers implies exposure to formerly feared social situations.
A Reason of Hope for Many SAD Sufferers
My intention here is not to argue in favor of the idea that online interventions are on eye level with in vivo psychotherapy in terms of effectiveness, although there is a surprising number of studies that seem to prove exactly this. Rather, I want to point out the potential of online interventions as they represent a powerful complement to traditional therapies for SAD.
As a former SAD sufferer, I can comprehend the tendency to look for online treatments. After all, you are looking for some helpful information, tips and advice that can relieve your pain relatively quickly. You might not even feel like you need a “real” psychotherapy, but just need to understand a little more about what is happening to you in social situations you experience as stressful. Or you believe you do need this type of therapy, but you are simply too afraid of receiving it.
From my experience of working with socially anxious individuals, I came to understand that online treatments represent a reason for hope for many people. I have met people who told me they had been able to start a face-to-face psychotherapy due to lowering their baseline anxiety in certain social situations and thanks to what they had learned in an online program designed for SAD sufferers.
Worth a Shot!
There are already several branches of psychotherapy that have designed online treatments for social anxiety disorder and it might be worth a shot if you haven’t been able to seek an in vivo therapy or you are simply trying to understand more about your issue. Be well advised, though, not to believe every promise people make related to those treatments, but be open-minded and you might end up being positively surprised.