Learning to change a way of being: An interpretative phenomenological perspective on cognitive therapy for social phobia

Freda McManus*, Dawn Peerbhoy, Michael Larkin, David M. Clark

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Social phobia (SP) is a common and disabling condition for which cognitive-behavioral treatments (CBT) have demonstrated efficacy. However, there remains room for improvement. Hence, further exploration of the means by which CBT helps patients with SP is warranted. Studies examining patients' perspectives on which aspects of treatment were most or least helpful may augment other established methodologies for identifying the more or less effective components and thus help to increase the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of CBT for SP. The current study used interpretive phenomenological analysis to analyze the transcripts of interviews with eight patients who had completed cognitive therapy (CT) for SP. Four related themes were identified: (i) social phobia as a way of being; (ii) learning to challenge social phobia as a way of being: transformative mechanisms of therapy; (iii) challenges faced in the pursuit of change; (iv) a whole new world: new ways of being. This analysis of patients' experiences of CT for SP confirmed that the factors hypothesized to be important in maintaining SP in cognitive-behavioral models of the disorder are evident in patients' descriptions of the processes of change in CT for SP (e.g., reducing internal focus of attention and reducing safety behaviors and avoidance). Helpful components of CT for SP were identified as areas where the protocol could be enhanced. Recommendations for the way in which CT for SP is implemented are made.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)581-589
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Anxiety Disorders
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2010

Bibliographical note

© 2010 Elsevier Ltd. Open access under CC BY license.


  • Cognitive behavior therapy
  • Cognitive therapy
  • Interpretive phenomenological analysis
  • Patients' experiences
  • Qualitative
  • Social phobia


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