Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is a highly complex, chronic, disabling and costly anxiety disorder. Although cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective for many patients, many others do not respond to CBT or remain considerably symptomatic at the end of treatment. Pharmacological effects are also modest. More empirically-supported treatment options are needed in order to increase patient access to effective treatment. Emotion-focused therapy (EFT) shows great promise in treating SAD effectively and is particularly suitable for treating SAD because pervasive emotional avoidance, difficulties with emotional differentiation, and high levels of self-criticism, which are central psychopathological processes in SAD, are also primary therapeutic targets in EFT. EFT is based on the assumption that the most efficient way to change a maladaptive emotion is not through reason or skill learning, but through the activation of other, more adaptive emotions. EFT aims to access shame-based emotional memories that underlie SAD, and transform them by exposing them to new adaptive emotional experiences, such as empowering assertive anger, grief, and self-compassion. In this paper, the core features of EFT for SAD are presented, as well as the EFT view of dysfunction in SAD and EFT change processes. Research findings regarding the effectiveness of EFT for SAD are presented together with initial findings regarding mechanisms of change occurring during treatment.
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