It is tough, as you clearly know, to organize a therapy group for SA. I commend you for your efforts. More of us could realistically start groups in our areas, if we've gone through the series. But that idea is daunting to most. Dr. Richards always recommends people try to do so when they have finished the International groups here. By that point, people do understand the therapy and have improved more than they often give themselves credit for, and by running groups they would still be doing the therapy themselves, still being proactive. And we all need that usually - to continue to reinforce the cognitive and behavioral. But, as you know, running a group can also feel like a big task - certainly it takes effort.
I assume you likely already run your groups based on the audio series, "Overcoming Social Anxiety: Step by Step". So my thoughts here are for others reading your post and also those who might have considered running a group.
First, I would definitely recommend using the audio series for any group. A group needs a structure and steps need to be taken in the right order to be effective. Meeting without that plan, although that's good for moral support, I don't see how that can provide effective treatment for people - certainly that has been my personal experience before doing the audio therapy series and joining groups here. And the whole nature of social anxiety is to avoid terrifying, anxiety-causing situations ... like a therapy group! So, people may come at first, but if, as time goes on, they don't feel "better", certainly they will start dropping from the group.
Before doing the audio series, I was the same. I tried to join many groups. Each group had a contract to sign, a commitment to stay in the group. The groups were both general self-help support groups, and groups intended to help those with SA. Certainly the general groups did me no good. There was no real plan for any of us because the group wasn't focused on a single disorder. And the groups for SA were not effective for me, and from what I could tell for most of the others, because, despite good intentions, the people running the groups either did not really have a plan and/or did not even really understand SA. So, we as group members also did not know how to get better and we were not "doing" anything like structured CBT that you need, like that in the audio series. And even if some were doing some kind of series or book, we certainly all weren't doing the same thing nor going through the same steps together. So even knowing the rational side of what we were trying to deal with - SA - a person does not get better just by knowing, they must "do the work" of the therapy daily to start to feel and see changes. And only if they start to feel better will they be encouraged to continue. Thus, many of us dropped off like flies.
So a requirement I would have if I ran a group - all members must be screened for SA and then must be doing the audio therapy series. That should be a basic commitment. We all should be working on the series together.
At this point, Michael917, you're probably saying, yep - all that is true and still people are absent. We unfortunately deal with that here too. We have a lot of people who DO the therapy and stick with the groups, and because they are doing the therapy daily (not just sitting in our groups once a week), they gradually overcome SA and they are in attendance. And we also have people who start and then stop, attend and then fade away. And we can't force someone to do therapy. Only each of us can decide that for ourselves. Even when we work to provide an effective group for those specifically working to overcome social anxiety, and a structured program to go along with that - the individual must choose to do, or not to do, the daily therapy. And doing is the only way we'll get better.
I hope you take some comfort in the fact that we face the same issues - I imagine all therapists and groups face this issue. And also know that you are truly helping the people that do keep up attendance. Ultimately you cannot control their choices. Thank you for doing what you do.
For those who are considering running a group - I highly recommend using the series and making that a requirement of all members in the group. I don't know how you'd run an effective group without it. If you didn't use the series and didn't have a plan, believe me - your group members will lose faith in the group despite good intentions. I knew - when I had already gone through the audio series and when I was looking for therapists and groups - I tried three groups that did not use the series, and, trusting my gut, I could quickly feel that the group wasn't for me, and in some cases, unfortunately, I knew the group leaders really had no understanding of social anxiety. This is also why YOU here, users of the series and people who have had social anxiety and who have started to overcome it, you are people who could run groups based on the series because you DO understand it, and you will have the empathy required.
Thank you, Michael917!