Online Therapy Works for Kids Battling Social Anxiety

*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on HealthDay.

Plenty of teens are burdened with a chronic and often paralyzing fear of being harshly judged by others. Unfortunately, many can’t get in-person treatment that could help.

But now a team of Swedish researchers says that an entirely online version of a widely used behavioral therapy technique can deliver significant relief to those affected.

The finding could pave the way for easier and cheaper access to an effective treatment for a common adolescent condition known as social anxiety disorder (SAD).

“SAD is one of the more common psychiatric disorders among young people, affecting 5% to 10% of individuals under age 18,” explained study author Martina Nordh. She is a psychologist and postdoctoral researcher in the department of clinical neuroscience at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

“It manifests as an intense and persistent fear of social or performance situations that most commonly are avoided or endured under great distress,” Nordh said.

Standard treatment typically involves some combination of antidepressants and in-person sessions rooted in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

According to the study team, CBT aims to foster positive thinking, new social skills and increased engagement with others. And, by slowly increasing exposure to the kinds of social situations that patients find most daunting, the approach has, in fact, proven effective at helping patients better understand and overcome their anxiety.

The problem is that setting up and maintaining an in-person CBT treatment program can be tricky for teens, said Nordh.

Might providing CBT online prove to be a practical and effective alternative? To find out, the researchers looked at just over 100 SAD patients aged 10 to 17 between 2017 and 2020.

About half of the teens received CBT therapy delivered entirely online. The other half were offered supportive therapy, also delivered exclusively online.

Both formats lasted 10 weeks, with therapist support provided on a weekly basis. In total, each group had three face-to-face online video sessions with a therapist.

The result: Teens, their parents, and the study team all agreed that online CBT was significantly more effective than online supportive therapy when it came to helping curb anxiety, stress, and depression. It also proved superior in terms of helping teens to function better on a daily basis.

Nordh said that she and her team hope the findings will “encourage health care providers nationally and internationally to facilitate further research and implementation of this accessible and effective treatment for SAD in youth.”

The study was published online in JAMA Psychiatry.

Source: HealthDay

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[reposted by] Jim Liebelt

Jim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for HomeWord. Jim has 40 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, having served over the years as a pastor, author, consultant, mentor, trainer, college instructor, and speaker. Jim’s HomeWord culture blog also appears on and Jim and his wife Jenny live in Quincy, MA.

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