For the past several years, CCI have been part of a randomised control trial comparing imagery-enhanced and verbally-based group cognitive behaviour therapy for social anxiety disorder (know as the BSOCIAL trial). We're very excited to announce that this trial was recently completed and the results have now been published in the journal Psychological Medicine. This kind of project epitomises the integration of research and clinical practice that we are so passionate about here at CCI, and we're hopeful that these results will not only help to guide our own treatment of social anxiety disorder, but also to support other clinicians around the world in providing evidence-based treatment for people experiencing social anxiety.
People with social anxiety often report experiencing mental images that relate to past (and anticipated future) social experiences, which can be associated with high levels of anxiety. Despite this, past treatments have paid limited attention to these mental images. To overcome this limitation, clinicians at the Centre for Clinical Interventions (CCI) developed a 12-week group-based “imagery-enhanced” program specifically tailored for social anxiety. Preliminary research indicated that this new approach was beneficial, but this study aimed to determine whether the imagery-enhanced group program was equally or more effective than existing programs.
Professor Peter McEvoy, a senior clinical psychologist at CCI, along with colleagues in Sydney, Canada, and Sweden, obtained funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia to undertake a large study comparing two group-based programs for social anxiety. Between 2016 and 2019, 107 people agreed to take part in the study at CCI and attended one of the two social anxiety programs. Each program involved 12, two-hour sessions, plus 1-month and 6-month follow-ups.
We found that both group programs were equally beneficial and resulted in very large, positive impacts on reducing social anxiety symptoms. The number of people who no longer met criteria for a diagnosis of social anxiety was also similar across the programs. The average reduction in symptoms for clients in both groups was similar to or exceeded international benchmarks. Importantly, these changes are also comparable to the largest effects seen in the literature for individual treatment (that is, one client per therapist compared to group treatment), despite group treatment requiring only one-quarter of the clinician time per client compared to individual treatment.
The fact that there were not any differences between the programs is excellent news. The findings from this study means that there are now two equally effective group programs available for people with social anxiety.
If you'd like to read more about this research, you can find a copy of the formal publication on the publisher’s website.
Peter McEvoy et al., Psychological Medicine, https://doi.org/10.1017/S0033291720003001
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