Group Therapy for Children with Social Anxiety: What’s It Like?


Group therapy for social anxiety sounds a little bit counterintuitive, doesn’t it? After all, the last thing you want to do with social anxiety is to participate in a group.

However, group therapy can be the best treatment for dealing with social anxiety.

Children and teens with social anxiety often feel like they are alone. Joining a group of kids that have similar experiences offers validation.

Furthermore, the group provides a safe space in which children can practice the skills necessary to overcome social phobia and social anxiety.

Anxiety is often about a fear of what might happen. Therefore, it can be helpful to know what to expect from group therapy for social anxiety.

The Work Starts Before the Group Begins

First of all, it is important to know that these groups are designed very carefully with the needs of each child in mind.

The therapist will meet with your child one-on-one to learn more about them. This helps to make sure that they are a good fit for the group. It also helps the therapist to understand some of the things that they might need during the group experience.

Each group, and each of the group’s sessions, is uniquely tailored to meet those needs. Therefore, you won’t just be a cog in the machine.

The experience in group therapy for social anxiety will be unique to the people in the group.

Learn and Practice New Skills

One of the core activities in group therapy will be to learn and practice new skills.

For example, your child will be able to practice speaking aloud in front of the group. This can be overwhelmingly scary for a child with social anxiety.

However, the group is a safe space. The other children there know how hard it is. The trained therapist has the skills to navigate this without flooding the child emotionally.

Anxiety only gets worse if you avoid it; group therapy for social anxiety allows for confronting issues in a tolerable way.

Identify and Reframe Thoughts

Anxiety happens in our thoughts. Group therapy is a great place to learn how to recognize negative thinking.

For example, let’s say that your teen texts a friend and doesn’t hear back right away. Then they start thinking things like:

  • The friend doesn’t like me.
  • Nobody likes me.
  • I shouldn’t have sent that text.
  • Everything I do is wrong.

These thoughts swirl around creating anxiety. Group therapy teaches them how to recognize negative thoughts.

Furthermore, it helps them reframe. For example, your child learns to think, “perhaps that friend is busy right now.”

Group therapy can offer powerful reframing because your child gets feedback from peers, rather than just the therapist.

Mindfulness Practice in Group Therapy for Social Anxiety

Some groups practice mindfulness together. This is a way of learning how to be present in the moment.

Focused breathing and other techniques help you to stay in the here and now. The more present you can be, the less anxiety you will feel.

Of course, it is a lot easier to practice mindfulness in a quiet room with just an individual therapist.

Getting practice in a group makes it easier to apply the technique outside of the therapy room.

Offers Information About Social Anxiety

Group therapy for social anxiety also teaches people about anxiety.

Kids need to know what is happening to them and why. Otherwise, they think that something is wrong with them.

Instead, they can learn, in an age-appropriate way, what social anxiety is all about.

They can also learn their personal triggers and what triggers other people in the group. This information is empowering and helps with overcoming symptoms.

Do you have a child or teen with social anxiety? Learn more about how group therapy can help here.