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.