Empirical research demonstrates the short- to medium-term efficacy and effectiveness of cognitive behavioural group therapy (CBGT) for social anxiety disorder (SAD). Little is known about the durability of gains beyond 1 year following treatment in real-life clinical settings. Literature regarding the impact of aftercare programs as an adjunct to CBGT treatment on SAD is scarce.
To evaluate the long-term effectiveness of CBGT for SAD in a community sample and to explore the relationship between long-term treatment outcomes and aftercare support group attendance.
A longitudinal cohort design evaluated changes in standardized psychological measures assessing aspects of SAD, anxiety and depression. Questionnaires were completed before the program (time 1, N = 457), after the program (time 2, n = 369) and at an average of 4.6 years follow-up (time 3, n = 138).
Large treatment effect sizes at post-intervention were maintained at long-term follow-up on measures of SAD, anxiety and depression. There was no statistically significant relationship between frequency of attendance at an aftercare support group and degree of improvement from post-treatment severity on any measure.
CBGT is an effective intervention in the long-term in a routine clinical setting and should be considered a viable treatment option for SAD. Recommendations for future research, treatment implications and study limitations are considered.