The page is intended as a guide to help you find well-trained social anxiety health professionals with appropriate qualifications and experience. Please also see our pages on what the NHS offers.
We primarily base our recommendations on the NHS NICE guidance. CBT is the talking therapy of choice for social anxiety. Other therapies are available (see here) but there is much less clinical evidence to show they provide effective treatment. Please see NHS Social Anxiety overview about CBT here. Read the SAAUK page about CBT here.
When looking for a private CBT therapist, its best to find someone with CBT training AND specific experience in treating social anxiety.
So how do you find a private CBT therapist?
The starting point to search for a private therapist who is trained in CBT in your local area is the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP) .
Social Anxiety Alliance UK recommend using therapists accredited with the BABCP, which is the lead organisation in the UK for CBT therapists, and should not be confused with the counselling body, the BACP (or their members with the qualification “MBACP”).
The BABCP maintain standards for practitioners of behavioural and cognitive psychotherapy, and have criteria members must meet to become accredited. BABCP accreditation is the minimum benchmark we recommend when seeking private CBT therapists. The BABCP have a useful website with a searchable register of accredited therapists that you can search by region.
To become accredited BABCP therapists must be a member of a specified core profession, follow minimum training standards, and have a sustained commitment to the theory and practice of cognitive and behavioural therapies. This ensures that all accredited CBT therapists have achieved a high level of competence in cognitive and behavioural methods, which has been independently verified.
It is important to not confuse being an ordinary member of the BABCP with being an accredited member. When seeking your CBT therapist you should always check someone is an accredited member of the BABCP. Don’t assume someone is an accredited member because it says they are on their website, do your own research and check their name against the BABCP register.
(NG TO ADD A PICTURE OF CBT REGISTER SEARCH PROCESS)
When you search the BABCP register, simply select your region from the ‘Geographical Search’ drop down menu and then click search. You will then be presented with a list of names, showing their locations and accreditation dates. You can then click against each name for their full contact information. A recently accredited date does not indicate any less experience, it just means they have only recently chosen to become accredited with the BABCP.
A key point to consider when seeking a CBT therapist is that prices will vary, but so will their social anxiety treatment skill levels, so a cheap therapist (or indeed an expensive one) may not be the best option.
Please note that BABCP accreditation is not necessarily a qualification of excellence in treating social anxiety – you will have to do your own homework to make sure they are the right therapist to help and treat you. To do this you may have to contact several therapists individually and ask them – or email them – about their knowledge of social anxiety. We have listed some possible questions further below.
When choosing a therapist, especially if paying to go private, it really is important to ask relevant questions to allow you to check if your therapist is suitably qualified to be treating you. Remember, this is your money, your chance to find someone to help you make progress with your social anxiety. You can email the therapist if telephone calls are difficult.
Below are some examples of questions you could ask. Whilst good answers to these questions don’t necessarily guarantee you have found an effective social anxiety specialist, it should allow you to filter out those whose social anxiety knowledge is perhaps not where you need it to be.
The therapist should answer ‘yes’ to the following generic questions:
- Have you treated social anxiety before?
- Will we set out a specific CBT treatment plan collaboratively, specific to my problems?
- Will treatment goals be set collaboratively?
- Do you use a technique called ‘graded exposure’?
- Do you set practical exercises or ‘homework’ for me and help me understand these exercises?
- Do you provide both cognitive and behavioural treatment (i..e full CBT), rather than just behavioural (or cognitive) treatment?
(If they say ‘yes’, it is also a good idea to follow up by trying to gain an idea of how much experience they have, e.g. ‘What proportion of your clients have social anxiety?’)
Note : Where behavioural exercises are set for homework, a good therapist should follow up with you the following week to see how you got on with them.
You could also ask some generic questions about social anxiety, or in relation to your own problems with social anxiety, to check if they recognise some of the terminology used, for example:
- Graded Exposure
- Safety Behaviours
A good therapist should not mind answering these questions – including via email – in fact, any reluctance to answer them should be enough to make you query if they are the right person for you.
It will always be difficult to say how many treatment sessions you will need, but a good benchmark is about 14-20 hours (often one hour a week).
Some people have stayed with the same private therapist for a year or longer because they like the therapist and feel they can talk. Whilst of course that is important, it’s worth remembering the reason we first went to therapy was to overcome social anxiety, so we really need an effective therapist! So if you’re still with the same therapist after several months of treatment you need to review if you’re making progress and if this person is able to help you.
What problems do people face when looking for private therapy?
Beware of unqualified or unsuitable practitioners
With a myriad of anxiety and social anxiety treatments available, many people have sometimes been tempted by the offer of quick fix cures, most of which are simply time and money wasters offered by people with sometimes no medical or clinical qualifications and experience at all. Sadly, anybody can call themselves a ‘therapist’, so it’s imperative to check credentials and qualifications.
Private Clinic and therapist listings
Whilst we cannot directly endorse or comment on the suitability of any individual clinic – or organisation – please see this initial list of private therapy options:
There are many official sounding counselling and therapy bodies, but not all check the credentials of their members, so do your research and never be afraid to ask questions.
Checking the registration of a therapists
- www.cbtregisteruk.com/(not to be confused with BACP) – for CBT therapists
- HCPC – choose the profession of practitioner psychologist
- British Psychological Society – for non clinical psychologists
- GMC Medical Register – for psychiatrists
As mentioned above, it’s important not to confuse the BABCP (the body for CBT therapists) with the BACP (a counselling body). It’s not unusual to see therapist websites include the logos of official sounding bodies, but don’t assume they’re significant. Always do your own research to understand what any such regularity bodies logos mean, and check the name of the individual therapist against the BABCP register of accredited therapists.
Other therapies and claims of special unique methods to treat anxiety and Social Anxiety
Some websites promise ‘social anxiety cures’ or quick fixes. Please don’t assume that just because someone is an ex-sufferer, they are qualified to be a therapist or to treat other people and charge you vast sums of money. Always check the professional background and clinical training of the therapist, and if they’re not accredited with the BABCP use extreme caution when parting with money.
So what happens if therapy is not working?
The therapeutic relationship plays a key factor in the success of a treatment. You and your therapist should be working together to gently push your social anxiety boundaries. However, even the most excellent of partnerships will sometimes slow down or stop working to your benefit. Please see our page on “what to do when therapy isn’t going well”
This page has been inspired by the article on OCD therapy at https://www.ocduk.org/overcoming-ocd/accessing-ocd-treatment/accessing-ocd-treatment-privately/finding-a-private-therapist/