One of the most effective social anxiety treatments to have been developed in recent years is called Cognitive Therapy for Social Anxiety Disorder, or CT-SAD. This treatment approach involves a number of features including training those with social anxiety to focus their attention externally rather than internally, working to re-script and re-evaluate traumatic memories of social experiences and social interaction exercises to test patient’s negative beliefs and prove them wrong.
One of the key components of CT-SAD is video feedback. This is where patients are filmed and photographed during social interactions in order to view themselves interacting with others. This enables them to see that they do not come across as badly as they imagine they will. Many people with social anxiety assume that they appear very nervous and awkward to others, but watching these videos back gives them a chance to see that this isn’t always the case.
Previous research has shown that watching videos of your interactions increases patient’s evaluations of their social abilities in 94% of participants and significantly reduces levels of social anxiety in the following week. The current study provides further support for the use of video feedback and suggests ways it can be used most effectively.
Participants were filmed having one-on-one conversations and asked to rate their performance and how anxious they came across. They then watched their conversations back and re-rated their performance.
After viewing videos of their interactions participants reported looking less anxious than they thought they would. They also rated their overall performance as better than anticipated. As in previous research, this procedure significantly reduced social anxiety in the following weeks.
Based on this research new ways of using video feedback in overcoming social anxiety were identified. These included making recording a routine part of the therapy in order to allow patients to get used to being on film. Before watching themselves participants were asked to predict how anxious or awkward they would appear, using a scale from 1 to 100. By watching the videos participants got to see that they came across much better than they imagined and that their predictions were often completely wrong.
Another useful factor in using video feedback was allowing feedback from others. For example if the conversation took place as part of a group therapy session, allowing the other participants to view the video and provide feedback was often very encouraging as it allowed participants to see that they came across well to others.
This research shows the importance of self-evaluation and how different your own perceptions can be from the reality. Video feedback allows patients to see that, while they might feel nervous in social situations, they don’t come across nearly as badly as they are expecting. Learning to see that they look better than they expect is a key part of learning how to get over social anxiety.
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