Empirically supported psychological interventions for social phobia in adults: a qualitative review of randomized controlled trials

Psychol Med. 2008 Jan;38(1):3-14. doi: 10.1017/S0033291707000918. Epub 2007 Jul 20.


Background: Social phobia is a chronic disorder that results in substantial impairment. We conducted a qualitative review of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of psychological interventions for social phobia.

Method: Articles were identified through searches of electronic databases and manual searches of reference lists. They were classified by psychological interventions evaluated. Data regarding treatment, participants and results were then extracted and tabulated. We identified which psychological interventions are empirically supported, using the scheme proposed by Chambless & Hollon (Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 1998, 66, 7-18).

Results: Thirty studies evaluating the efficacy of social skills training (SST), exposure therapy and/or cognitive treatments were identified. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), involving cognitive restructuring and exposure to feared and avoided social situations or behavioral experiments, was found to be an efficacious and specific treatment for social phobia. Exposure therapy was found to be an efficacious treatment since most of the evidence of its efficacy was from comparisons with no treatment. There were mixed findings regarding the relative efficacy of CBT and in vivo exposure. Some studies reported that the interventions were equivalent, while others found that patients treated with CBT had a better outcome. There was little evidence to support the use of SST.

Conclusions: CBT is the psychological intervention of choice for social phobia. The findings of this review are compared to those of other major reviews and limitations are discussed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavior Therapy / methods
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Empirical Research
  • Humans
  • Implosive Therapy / methods
  • Phobic Disorders / psychology
  • Phobic Disorders / therapy*
  • Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Psychotherapy / standards
  • Psychotherapy, Group / methods
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / standards*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / statistics & numerical data
  • Self Concept
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors