At first, I was hesitant to join the groups at Talking Therapies. I have in the past only had private counselling and had never spoken openly in a group about my feelings. A group session for treating social anxiety seems like a contradiction. However, without being in a group, I doubt the sessions would have impacted me as much as they did.
I have shared my struggle with social anxiety with my family and close friends, but I have never met anyone who really understood the challenges and what it feels like. During the first session I had, my social anxiety was too high to participate, I just observed, and the counsellors made me feel like that was okay. I wanted to understand the environment and witness how the sessions were run for the first session. Therefore by the second session, I felt it was a safe environment so I could join in.
Both counsellors were excellent, and I felt they knew a lot about social anxiety and could relate to how it feels internally and the types of challenges which are harder to tackle. As a group, we motivated each other to participate in the tasks. I felt at ease when another member of the group shared a thought that I have always felt throughout my experience with social anxiety it made the struggle a lot less lonely. I found the weekly homework and the exposures during the sessions to be really helpful.
The reality of the situation with social anxiety is that you need to put yourself in uncomfortable and difficult situations to get better. Then over time, you become more confident and can identify negative thought patterns which worsen your anxiety. Once I understood this process, it became a lot easier to recognise my thought process, and to dispute these thoughts to calm myself down. All that was due to the teachings of the incredible counsellors who encouraged me to dive deeper into those thoughts and challenge them.
I still do have weekly exposure goals to improve my social anxiety week by week. We celebrated wins as a group and improved together, which was really impactful. Now, when I find myself in a situation that triggers my social anxiety, I think of those I met in the group and the counsellors who would be cheering me on.