Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, is not only one of the most common forms of anxiety disorders but also ranks within the top four most common mental health issues. People with social anxiety disorder have a fear of being rejected, negatively evaluated, being the center of attention, or embarrassing oneself. Approximately 13% of the US population will experience social anxiety at some point during their life.


Social anxiety disorder takes on several forms: fear of social interaction, fear of performing in front of others, and fear of public speaking. The level of severity is on a continuum from mildly disabling where there is little impact on functioning to severely disabling where most interactions are avoided or experienced with extreme distress.

People with severe social anxiety can be isolated from others and have difficulty holding a job or attending school. Co-occurring depression is common as a result of the life limitations. Substance and alcohol abuse may be an attempt to self-medicate social anxiety.


What causes social anxiety disorder is not fully understood. Psychologists believe that social anxiety is likely caused by some interaction between genetic predisposition, learned through modeling from the person’s environment, and experiencing a social trauma.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help people learn to manage their social anxiety. The three most important components of CBT are psychoeducation, cognitive restructuring, and exposure therapy.

The therapists at Pacific CBT tailor treatment to each person’s unique needs. For some people, individual therapy will be most helpful in reducing symptoms. For others, group therapy may be more effective. Lastly, for some a combination of individual and group therapy may produce the best results. Following the assessment phase of treatment (typically the first 2 – 3 sessions) your therapist will make recommendations and lay out a preliminary treatment plan.

What service do you offer?

At Pacific CBT, we offer a variety of services for adults seeking help for social anxiety.
Our group services include a 10-week Level 1 introductory Cognitive Behavioral Therapy group and, for those looking for additional services, a 10-week Level 2 intermediate group.

How often do you offer the Level 1 and Level 2 groups?

Level 1 is offered two to three times a year. We usually have start dates in January, May and September of each year.
Level 2 is offered to those who have completed Level 1. It is available once a year.

What happens in the Level 1 group?

In the introductory group, we offer education and information so you can better understand social anxiety and gain some of the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy skills to help you confront it. Part of the group includes exposure therapy, which takes a scientific approach to help you learn how to have different outcomes when facing the trigger for your fears or anxiety.

How many people attend the group?

We keep our group small, with only about six to eight adults in each session.

What are the group demographics?

Just like San Francisco itself, the group is often quite diverse. Peoples’ ages can range from the early 20s to 60s, with most in their mid-30s. Most are employed or students.

Who leads the group?

Two of our psychotherapists facilitate the group sessions. One is a licensed psychotherapist with more than 10 years’ experience with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and social anxiety; the other is a highly trained and experienced pre-licensed psychotherapist.

What if attending a group is exactly what I’m afraid of?

It’s natural to feel anxious when attending the group for the first few meetings. Most of the people there will feel exactly the same way, so you’ll be in good company. The group will become a safe place for you as you learn to confront and deal with anxiety. In fact, coming to sessions is essentially exposure therapy. Like most experiences, the more we engage with our fears, the less scary they become.

We know attending group can provoke anxiety, so we work hard to create a non-judgmental and comfortable environment so you can take risks in a non-threatening space. You will work at your own pace and we expect minimal participation in the first few meetings. As the meetings progress, we gently encourage you to take more risks in interacting with the group.

Can I expect to improve?

At Pacific CBT, we have been offering group therapy for social anxiety for many years. Our data shows these group sessions eases members’ social anxiety and makes them less likely to avoid social interactions.

When we look at pre- and post-treatment scores on standardized measures of social anxiety, we see the clear majority of people improve. The degree of this improvement does vary, but most people will move up at least one level on the scale, such as from severe to moderate, moderate to marked or marked to mild. It is incredibly rare for someone to show no improvement.

How much time should I expect to put into the group?

Group sessions are 1 hour and 45 minutes for each weekly meeting. Outside of that, we do expect you to put effort into homework and practice. Homework includes completing worksheets and logs, while practice means engaging in social situations outside of your usual routine. We encourage group members to spend as much time as possible on this work outside of sessions; there is a direct link between effort and level of improvement.

How do I sign up?

If you’re interested in joining our group sessions, we invite you to come to a one-on-one assessment and orientation meeting. This is an hour and fifteen minute-long session where you will meet with one of our therapists to determine if this form of therapy is a good match for you. You’ll have a chance to ask questions and decide for yourself if group therapy is the right option.
If we agree it’s a good fit, you will be offered a place in the group.

To save that spot, we’ll ask you to complete the registration documents, including credit card information to reserve the space, which is on a first-come, first-served basis.
If the group is full, we’ll put you on a waitlist and offer you a spot in the next round.

When and where do the group meetings occur?

Typically, we meet on Tuesdays from 6:45 to 8:30 p.m. at the conveniently located Pacific CBT offices in Lower Pacific Heights / Japantown. Occasionally we will meet in the Union Square area of San Francisco for field trips.

What happens if I can’t make a few meetings?

The group is a 10-week commitment and there are no refunds for missed sessions.
We expect group members to attend every meeting. Since there are only 10 of them, it’s important everyone is at each session.

If you can’t commit to being at the meeting every week, or if you know in advance you won’t be able to attend one or more of them, we encourage you to sign up for a later group. You may opt to do individual therapy sessions until you can commit to the 10-week group meetings.
If there is a sudden, unavoidable reason to miss a session, we’ll ask you to notify one of the therapists of your absence. You will be charged for each session, whether you attend or not.

I’m not sure if I’m ready to sign up for a group. Can I try before committing?

Unfortunately, we can’t offer that option. Once a group has started, we are unable to fill spots for people that decide it’s not for them. Also, it’s highly disruptive to the rest of the members if someone drops out. You need to be sure you are committed to the 10-week group.
If you’re not, we offer individual therapy sessions, which may be a better fit.

How much does it cost?

The fee for the one-on-one assessment and orientation is $190. Each weekly 105-minute group session is $90. Using the credit card information on file, we collect payments at the beginning of each month for that month’s sessions.

Are there any other expenses?

All expenses are covered in your fees. You are responsible for the cost of getting to and from meetings. Some people meet outside of group to finish their homework; any expenses linked to those outside get-togethers are also your responsibility.

Do you accept insurance?

We are not in-network with insurance plans. If your insurance offers out-of-network coverage, you can submit a claim for reimbursement. We provide a monthly statement which you can hand in to your insurance company who will reimburse you directly.

What should I do next?

The pre-group assessment and orientation meetings are held about one month before the start of Level 1 group. If you’d like us to notify you of the schedule for these meetings, we are happy to add you to a list.


Our therapists are highly trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and go through ongoing training and consultations to ensure our knowledge and skills can help you tackle your anxiety disorders.

At Pacific CBT, we offer the best anxiety treatment in San Francisco. Contact us for a complimentary 15-minute phone consultation to determine if our specialized services can help address your needs.

Or, take the next step, and schedule an appointment through our highly secure third-party service that meets the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act standards for protecting sensitive patient data.

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