Social Anxiety Therapy in Edinburgh

Edinburgh Therapy Service specialises in counselling and psychotherapy for social anxiety and other anxiety disorders. Our primary approach is cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), widely considered as one of the best practice for treating social phobia. Sometimes, we might integrate approaches like acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), compassion-focused therapy (CFT), mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), or a customised blend of these methods to enhance the effectiveness of the treatment. We are committed to providing a safe, non-judgmental, and supportive environment. Let’s work together!

What is social anxiety?

Social anxiety, often called social phobia, is a common anxiety disorder characterised by an overwhelming apprehension in social situations. It is not simply shyness or introversion, as some people might mistakenly think.


Someone with social anxiety experience physical symptoms like sweating, trembling, a racing heart, or nausea when faced with social situations. They also have negative thoughts about themselves, believing that they are boring, unlikable, or socially inept. This negative self-perception can further fuel their anxiety and avoidance behaviours.


Social anxiety can manifest in various situations, including public speaking, meeting new people, attending parties or gatherings, and even everyday activities like going to the grocery store. It can significantly impact a person’s self-esteem and overall well-being.

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Our therapists are qualified and registered with reputable professional associations for psychotherapy and counselling.

When to seek help for social anxiety?

Social anxiety disorder is a challenging condition that can lead to dropping out of school, a high rate of unemployment, and isolation from people and enjoyable activities. These are clear warning signs that it’s time to take action, but it’s even wiser to seek therapy before you reach such extremes.


Here are some key signs to consider:


Evaluate your levels of fear: Evaluate your feelings of fear and anxiety in social settings candidly. Should you find that your anxiety is intense and significantly disrupts your daily routines and functioning, it becomes a compelling indicator that counselling is advisable.


Assess the extent of avoidance: Consider how much you avoid social situations due to anxiety. Is your avoidance significantly limiting your activities and experiences?


Duration of symptoms: Social anxiety disorder is typically diagnosed when fear, anxiety, or avoidance persists for six months or longer. If you’ve been experiencing these symptoms for an extended period, we suggest giving therapy a try.


If you find yourself uncertain about whether counselling for social anxiety is the right choice for you, we encourage you to reach out and have a conversation with us. We can guide you in determining the most suitable path to address your concerns.

Therapy for social anxiety

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is a cornerstone in the treatment of social anxiety disorder. It is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines as the main type of therapy recommended for this type of anxiety. NICE is a reputable organization in the UK that provides evidence-based guidance and recommendations for healthcare practices. Their endorsement of CBT underscores its effectiveness in addressing social anxiety.


Additionally. recent developments in therapeutic methods have provided valuable enhancements to CBT. Among these, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), compassion-focused therapy (CFT), and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) have emerged as promising options.


CBT for social anxiety

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) stands as a proven successful approach to social anxiety treatment. It operates on a well-established foundation, focusing on two pivotal aspects: behavioural exposure and cognitive restructuring. 


Behavioural exposure involves consistently confronting the situations or scenarios that evoke fear and anxiety. This exposure is conducted in a gradual and controlled manner, accustumed to the person’s specific anxieties. By facing these feared social situations step by step, they begin to desensitise to the triggers of their anxiety.


Together with behavioural exposure, CBT touches upon the cognitive aspects of social anxiety. It allows clients to identify and challenge negative thought patterns that contribute to their anxiety. These thoughts comprise irrational beliefs, self-criticism, and a heightened fear of negative evaluation by others. Through cognitive restructuring, people learn to analyse these thoughts, assess their validity, and replace them with more realistic and balanced perspectives.


ACT for social anxiety

Acceptance and commitment therapy introduces a refreshing dimension to the treatment of social anxiety. Its primary focus lies in elevating one’s awareness of mental acceptance and fostering flexibility. By embracing these principles, ACT encourages the person to acknowledge anxiety as a natural part of the human experience without judgement. 


ACT extends its influence by fostering flexibility. It empowers individuals to live in alignment with their values and aspirations despite the presence of anxiety. The acceptance serves as a key to the ability to engage in actions aligned with their values, despite the presence of anxiety.

This article explores more in depth how ACT works for social anxiety


CFT for social anxiety

Compassion-focused therapy works by nurturing self-compassion and reducing self-criticism, two critical elements in the treatment of social anxiety.


CFT places a strong emphasis on cultivating self-compassion. This involves learning to treat oneself with the same kindness, understanding, and support that one would offer to a friend in a similar situation. It helps people challenge unrealistic and unattainable standards they may have set for themselves in social situations. Through various therapeutic techniques, the person works on improving their self-esteem and developing a more positive self-concept


This approach also encourages individuals to embrace their imperfections and recognize that everyone has vulnerabilities and makes mistakes.


CFT  can be particularly valuable for those whose social anxiety is closely tied to negative self-perceptions and harsh self-criticism.


MBCT for social anxiety

Clients with social anxiety often get caught up in anxious thoughts and worries about social situations. MBCT teaches individuals to become more aware of their thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations in the present moment without judgement. This heightened awareness helps them step back from their anxious thoughts and observe them as mental activities rather than unchangeable truths.


Through mindfulness practices, people learn to respond to their thoughts and emotions with greater equanimity. Instead of reacting impulsively to anxious thoughts, they develop the capacity to observe these thoughts and feelings without getting entangled in them. 


As a result, MBCT helps individuals build a foundation of self-awareness and emotional regulation, empowering them to navigate social situations more skillfully.


A combination of approaches

In many cases, the most effective approach to addressing social anxiety involves a synergistic combination of all these therapeutic methods. Therapists are trained to personalise these approaches to each client’s unique needs, leveraging the strengths of each to create a personalised treatment plan.


While CBT provides structured behavioural exposure and cognitive tools, ACT adds the dimension of accepting anxiety as a natural part of life. CFT fosters self-compassion and positive self-regard, and MBCT equips individuals with mindfulness skills to navigate social situations with greater ease.


In this combination, clients not only face their fears but also learn to accept the feelings of anxiety that may arise during exposure, while being kind to themselves and present in the moment, rather than entangled with their thoughts.


These various skills and techniques can operate independently or, when integrated, synergistically empower individuals to overcome their social anxiety

Our approach to social anxiety counselling

At Edinburgh Therapy Service, we use cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) as the main approach to treat social anxiety. CBT is an evidence-based type of therapy known for its efficacy in treating different psychological problems, including social anxiety. However, every person is unique, and their requirements and preferences differ.


Depending on the specific case, we can also offer acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), compassion-focused therapy (CFT), mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), or a combination of techniques from these modalities. These therapies comprise the latest approaches developed from traditional CBT and fall under the umbrella of third-wave therapies.


Our therapeutic approach is established in compassion, support, and understanding. We know how overwhelming living with social anxiety can be, and for that reason we want to create a safe, non judgemental space, where you can explore your concerns. 


Some of the main symptoms of social anxiety are:


Excessive fear or anxiety about social situations.

Worrying about being judged or negatively evaluated by others.

Avoidance of social situations or enduring them with intense discomfort.

Physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, racing heart, or nausea in social settings.

Fear of public speaking or performing in front of others.

Difficulty making and maintaining eye contact.

Overanalyzing social interactions and perceived mistakes.

Fear of being the centre of attention.

Low self-esteem and negative self-perception in social situations.


Similar to numerous other mental health conditions, social anxiety disorder is believed to result from a multifaceted interplay of biological and environmental influences. Potential contributing factors encompass:


Genetic factors: Individuals with a family history of anxiety disorders, including social anxiety, may have a higher genetic predisposition to develop the condition. Certain genes related to brain chemistry and emotional regulation can play a role.


Psychological factors: Some people may have a natural predisposition toward shyness or introversion, which can make them more susceptible to social anxiety. Furthermore, a poor self-image, low self-esteem, or feelings of inadequacy can fuel social anxiety, as individuals may fear negative judgement from others.


Environmental factors: Traumatic or negative experiences during childhood or adolescence, such as bullying, rejection, or embarrassing situations, can contribute to the development of social anxiety. Children may also learn anxious behaviours by observing and internalising the social anxiety of their parents or caregivers. Additionally, repeated negative social interactions or criticism from peers can lead to the learned fear of social situations and contribute to social anxiety.

Do you offer social anxiety therapy near me?

The Edinburgh Therapy Service offers both in-person social anxiety counselling in Edinburgh (United Kingdom) and convenient online therapy accessible worldwide You can find our exact location here. We specialise in therapy for social anxiety, offering a range of evidence-based approaches.

The Edinburgh Therapy Service is a psychotherapy and counseling practice based in Edinburgh, Scotland (United Kingdom). We offer therapy both in-person in Edinburgh and online, available in English and Spanish.

Contact info

Contact us for more information or to book your first appointment: [email protected]