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BMC Psychiatry. 2014 Apr 15;14:115. doi: 10.1186/1471-244X-14-115.

Internet-based individually versus group guided self-help treatment for social anxiety disorder: protocol of a randomized controlled trial.

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Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.



Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is one of the most common mental disorders and causes subjective suffering and economic burden worldwide. Although effective treatments are available, a lot of cases go untreated. Internet-based self-help is a low-threshold and flexible treatment alternative for SAD. Various studies have already shown that internet-based self-help can be effective to reduce social phobic symptoms significantly. Most of the interventions tested include therapist support, whereas the role of peer support within internet-based self-help has not yet been fully understood. There is evidence suggesting that patients' mutual exchange via integrated discussion forums can increase the efficacy of internet-based treatments. This study aims at investigating the added value of therapist-guided group support on the treatment outcome of internet-based self-help for SAD.


The study is conducted as a randomized controlled trial. A total of 150 adults with a diagnosis of SAD are randomly assigned to either a waiting-list control group or one of the active conditions. The participants in the two active conditions use the same internet-based self-help program, either with individual support by a psychologist or therapist-guided group support. In the group guided condition, participants can communicate with each other via an integrated, protected discussion forum. Subjects are recruited via topic related websites and links; diagnostic status will be assessed with a telephone interview. The primary outcome variables are symptoms of SAD and diagnostic status after the intervention. Secondary endpoints are general symptomology, depression, quality of life, as well as the primary outcome variables 6 months later. Furthermore, process variables such as group processes, the change in symptoms and working alliance will be studied.


The results of this study should indicate whether group-guided support could enhance the efficacy of an internet-based self-help treatment for SAD. This novel treatment format, if shown effective, could represent a cost-effective option and could further be modified to treat other conditions, as well.



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