What is Social Anxiety Anonymous/Social Phobics Anonymous?

Social anxiety anonymous uses a 12-step format.
Social anxiety anonymous uses a 12-step format. Getty / Tom Merton

Social Anxiety Anonymous/Social Phobics Anonymous is a non-profit organization offering telephone and in-person support groups following the 12-step program adopted from Alcoholics Anonymous. Participation in meetings is free other than any long-distance charges incurred while attending telephone conference calls to the United States.

A Typical Meeting

Whether in-person or by telephone conference call, a typical meeting begins with readings from social anxiety literature.

Participants are then invited to share personal experiences while other members listen or offer encouragement and support (but not advice or their own experiences).

No registration is required to attend a meeting and there is no requirement to share. Meetings end with casual discussion among participants.

Do You Need to Be Religious?

You do not need to be religious to participate in the 12-step program, however participants are asked to define their own version of a higher power.

This can mean god, the wisdom of the support group, or any other symbol of positive strength in your life. Atheists and agnostics are welcome to attend meetings.

Who Can Attend a 12-step Meeting?

Meetings are open for those suffering from social anxiety disorder (SAD), avoidant personality disorder (APD), chronic shyness, paruresis, and other other manifestation of social fears.

What if There Are No Local Meetings in My Area?

Local meetings can be started by anyone experiencing problems with social anxiety; you don't need to have overcome your problems or have experience leading a group.

The emphasis of meetings is on fellowship and community, and your job will largely be that of moderating the activities of the other participants.

What Do the 12 Steps Involve?

The twelve steps involve having faith in a higher power (as you define it) to enable you to overcome the struggles related to your social anxiety.

As part of this process you will take an inventory of your weaknesses and strengths, write a purpose statement for yourself and envision the life that you want.

You will also make amends to those that you have harmed in the past, including yourself.

Finally, you will maintain contact with your higher power and carry the message of the group to others experiencing difficulty.

Do 12-step Programs Work for Social Anxiety?

There is no scientific evidence to support 12-step programs in the treatment of social anxiety. Studies have instead looked at the influence of having social anxiety on the effectiveness of 12-step programs for alcoholism. One study of this nature with women showed that those with social anxiety were less likely to acquire a sponsor.

It is unclear if the same problems might arise for those doing 12-step programs specifically for social anxiety. However, it is reasonable to assume that participating in a group setting may be difficult for those with severe anxiety symptoms.

Also, it is important to remember that those running 12-step programs are not trained mental health professionals.

12-step programs for social anxiety might be best used as an add-on to regular treatment—a way to share experiences with others going through the same thing.

Source:

Social Anxiety Anonymous/Social Phobics Anonymous. About Social Anxiety Anonymous/Social Phobics Anonymous. Accessed February 28, 2016.

Tonigan JS, Book SW, Pagano ME, Randall PK, Smith JP, Randall CL. 12-step therapy and women with and without social phobia: a study of the effectiveness of 12-step therapy to facilitate AA engagement. Alcohol Treat Q. 2010;28(2):151-162.

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