Self-help treatment for social anxiety will ease burden on mental health services and for sufferers

Oct 11, 2007

New research from Macquarie University suggests certain self-help treatments for social anxiety disorder may be just as effective as more traditional, therapist only treatments.

With mental health conditions such as anxiety growing in prevalence across the globe, there is a critical need for more innovative, cost-effective and accessible treatments. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (1997 National Survey of Health and Wellbeing) social phobia affects more than 200,000 Australians every year. Of these people, 80 per cent do not seek treatment. The results of Macquarie's recently trialed self-help treatment for social anxiety disorder is therefore promising news for both anxiety sufferers and mental health services.

Recently published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, the study investigated the efficacy of pure self-help through written materials for severe social phobia and self-help augmented by five group sessions with a therapist. These conditions were compared with a waiting-list control and standard, therapist-led group therapy.

According to psychology Professor Ron Rapee, who led the team of Macquarie researchers, such methods may provide a template for a highly resource-effective method of treatment delivery.

"Mental health services around the world are limited in their reach and scope," explains Rapee. "In addition, a large proportion of people with anxiety disorders including social phobia do not seek help from traditional mental health services, rather they prefer to deal with difficulties themselves. For these people in particular, self-help might provide an acceptable alternative to traditional therapy. Advantages of self-help include freeing up mental health professionals to allow them to deal with individuals who do require more intensive intervention and providing a more easily accessible and less stigmatising alternative for individuals who are unwilling or unable to access traditional services."

While results of the study indicated that pure self help showed limited efficacy for the treatment of social phobia, they did suggest that self-help augmented by therapist assistance may be a legitimate alternative to traditional therapy models.

"At a 24-week follow-up assessment augmented self-help with five therapist-led group sessions resulted in marked improvements in symptoms of social phobia and life interference that were as great as those produced by standard group treatment," says Rapee.

"These results could have major implications for public health. At one extreme, expert therapists treating individual patients under detailed supervision can produce extremely efficacious results at a higher cost and limited accessibility. At the other extreme, simple provision of printed materials can produce small changes at extremely low cost and broad accessibility. Augmentation of printed materials with a few therapist-led sessions provides an extremely viable mid-point alternative."

Source: Macquarie University

Explore further: Self-regulation intervention boosts school readiness of at-risk children, study shows

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Suicide risk falls substantially after talk therapy

41 minutes ago

Repeat suicide attempts and deaths by suicide were roughly 25 percent lower among a group of Danish people who underwent voluntary short-term psychosocial counseling after a suicide attempt, new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School ...

Brains transform remote threats into anxiety

Nov 21, 2014

Modern life can feel defined by low-level anxiety swirling through society. Continual reports about terrorism and war. A struggle to stay on top of family finances and hold onto jobs. An onslaught of news ...

Mental disorders due to permanent stress

Nov 21, 2014

Activated through permanent stress, immune cells will have a damaging effect on and cause changes to the brain. This may result in mental disorders. The effects of permanent stress on the immune system are studied by the ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.