Steps to Help Your Clients Overcome Social Phobia

By Helen Nieves

Everyone has felt embarrassed or anxious at some point in their lives. Giving a speech in front of a crowd or meeting new people can make many people feel nervous.

Some form of anxiety and nervousness is considered healthy, because it helps us to push forward and to accomplish our goals. However, when a person avoids situations because he or she is afraid of being embarrassed, the fear becomes overwhelming and it can get in the way of daily tasks.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, social phobia is “the extreme fear of being scrutinized and judged by others in social or performance situations.” The symptoms can be so severe that they interfere with and disrupt daily life. “The anxiety can interfere significantly with daily routines, occupational performance, or social life.” (

I once had client who came to see me for symptoms of anxiety. He reported having trouble making new friends and meeting new people. He was a loner and although he had friends, he shied away from calling to hang out with them because he did not know what to say.

He avoided social gatherings with his girlfriend, who was outgoing and had many friends. She enjoyed dancing, but he felt that he would embarrass himself because he did not know how to dance. He avoided going to the pet park with his dog because that would mean introducing himself to the other pet owners.

He avoided many activities that included a crowd. He dreaded going to his brother’s wedding that was eight months away because he would have to make a toast at the reception and felt extremely nervous.

This is a typical case of someone who has social phobia. It worsens the quality of life, it can be isolating, it can hurt your confidence, and it can rob you from many wonderful opportunities.

So, how can someone with social phobia overcome the fear of embarrassment? I suggest you try the following techniques with your clients who have social phobia.

About Helen Nieves
Helen Nieves is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Attention Deficit Consultant Specialist who works in her private practice and outpatient mental health clinic in New York. She teaches ADHD on line and is on the Advisory Board at The American Institute of Health Care Professionals. She also received advanced training in Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy and in Grief Counseling.