Free and Low-Cost Online Treatment for Social Anxiety

Social anxiety disorder can make everyday social interactions difficult, so online treatment options may be an appealing choice to people who have this condition. In addition to online therapy options, there are a number of free and low-cost resources and websites. These sites provide educational material and treatment programs designed to help people cope with different symptoms of social anxiety.

Free online treatment resources for social anxiety disorder (SAD) range from programs for specific problems such as stuttering to general educational resources.

Most online treatment resources that are free are offered through a university or from a research setting. While these resources can help you learn more about your anxiety and develop strategies for coping with your symptoms, it is important to remember that there is no guarantee about the effectiveness of self-directed treatment.

MoodGym

MoodGYM home screen
Australian National University / MoodGym

MoodGYM is an interactive online program aimed at preventing depression and anxiety. Consisting of games, assessments, audio files, and feedback, MoodGYM teaches the principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), a treatment that has been shown to be effective for social anxiety disorder.

MoodGym is available worldwide but was developed at the Centre for Mental Health Research at the Australia National University.

One study found that the program was effective at reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression in adults. Other studies have found that the program has other benefits as well including improving well-being and reducing suicide risk for high-risk individuals.

This interactive anxiety treatment program is self-paced, anonymous, and confidential. The program was first launched in 2001 and was originally developed based on the work of Australia researchers and is funded by the Australia Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing. 

E-Couch

Ecouch home screen
Australian National University / Ecouch

E-Couch is a free online program designed to prevent and provide coping strategies for depression, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and SAD. E-Couch is provided through the Australian National University​ and is an offshoot of the MoodGym program.​

The program is aimed primarily and people who are coping with emotional problems including symptoms of depression, anxiety, anger, and grief. 

The program is entirely anonymous and users can log in and get help from anywhere in the world. Included in the program are informational resources, practice exercises, and a workbook to record and track your experiences and progress. 

The program is designed to be friendly and appealing to younger users and incorporates videos, graphics, and interactive elements. Users can also choose between different therapeutic approaches that utilize cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), relaxation techniques, and physical activities. 

This Way Up Social Phobia Course

Visit This Way Up social phobia course home screen
St. Vincent's Hospital Sydney / This Way Up

The "This Way Up" social phobia course is for people who fear and avoid situations in which they could be the center of attention. The course takes up to three months with one or two lessons per week.

There is a charge for the course, but at around $60 total, it is much less than traditional therapy. Results are expected to be similar whether you complete the program on your own or ​under the supervision of your therapist.

Working with a health professional in conjunction with the course may be helpful, but you can also complete it entirely on your own through the self-help and phone support options. 

Through the course, you will take online questionnaires that help assess how you are feeling. Results are then sent to your doctor or therapist. If you are working on the course on your own, the program will notify you if your score was above the acceptable range to move forward to the next lesson. Lessons include educational information, homework, story-based elements, and stories of recovery.

Social Anxiety Institute Online Therapy Program

Social Anxiety Institute treatment program homescreen

Social Anxiety Institute

The SAI online program involves 25 weekly sessions and is more expensive than the others at about $160 in total. However, SAI has a good reputation and runs workshops in-person, so this could easily be used as a stepping stone to enter therapy or one of those in-person programs.

The program utilizes audio and video lessons to help demonstrate how people can implement behavioral therapy in their own lives. Each lesson also includes written handouts. People taking the course are asked to spend 30 minutes each day, during a time when they are alone and feel calm, to practice the strategies taught in each lesson.

With repeated and regular practice, the program aims to reprogram the cognitions and behaviors that create anxiety and replace them with more helpful responses.

Joyable

Joyable screenshot

 Joyable

Joyable is a 12-week course based on the principles of CBT.

The key idea is that it is not the social situations themselves that cause symptoms of anxiety; it's how you interpret the situation. By changing how you think about social situations, you can reduce or eliminate feelings of anxiety.

The course is more expensive than some other options at $99 per month or $239 for a three-month course. Each client is assigned a coach, and treatment begins with a 30-minute phone call to discuss symptoms and treatment. During treatment, you can talk to your coach through text, email, or scheduled phone call. While coaches are not licensed mental health professionals, they are trained in CBT techniques and motivational strategies. 

Before You Start Online Treatment

Before you decide to use a free or paid online treatment for social anxiety disorder, it is important to consider your needs as well as the severity of your symptoms. There are a number of pros and cons associated with online therapy for social anxiety and other mental health conditions.

Pros

  • Accessible and convenient

  • Flexible scheduling

  • Often very affordable

  • Can be effective

Cons

  • Technology glitches

  • Not covered by insurance

  • Hard to stay motivated

  • Not appropriate for severe cases

Before you sign up for an online treatment program, it may be a good idea to talk to your doctor about your symptoms. Your doctor can rule out any medical conditions that might be contributing to your symptoms, prescribe medications that may help, and recommend additional treatment options, which may include self-help strategies.

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