Emotion-focused therapy for the treatment of social anxiety: An overview of the model and a case description

Ben Shahar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Emotion-focused therapy (EFT) is an integrative and experiential treatment approach that views emotions as fundamentally adaptive and privileges attention to, and exploration of, emotional experiences. EFT has been demonstrated to be efficacious with depression, interpersonal trauma and marital discord, but application to anxiety disorders is in its initial stages. The purpose of this paper is to present the main principles of using EFT with socially anxious patients and to make the case that EFT is particularly well suited for working with this patient group. The primary change processes in EFT for social anxiety include improving emotion awareness, reducing experiential avoidance and the activation and transformation of shame that underlies the symptomatic anxiety. Such processes lead to less self-criticism, to more self-compassion and self-soothing and to a more favourable perception of the self. A case example is used to illustrate how these principles were applied with a socially anxious patient. Key Practitioner Message: Although cognitive-behavioral therapies (CBT) are effective for social anxiety disorder (SAD), a substantial number of patients do not respond to CBT or remain considerably symptomatic at the end of treatment. Therefore, more treatment options for SAD are necessary in order to improve patient care.Emotion-focused therapy (EFT), which is an efficacious treatment for depression, complex trauma, and couples' distress may also be efficacious for SAD.EFT offers an emotion-based case formulation of SAD, in which social anxiety is conceptualized as secondary to primary maladaptive shame. A primary goal in EFT for SAD is to access and evoke shame in order to transform it.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)536-547
Number of pages12
JournalClinical Psychology and Psychotherapy
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


  • Emotion-focused therapy
  • Emotions
  • Self-criticism
  • Shame
  • Social anxiety


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