How to Start Behavioral Therapy when Anxiety is Very Specific


My social anxiety is pretty specific and almost only occurs in performance type settings, especially reading out loud in a group setting like a class or something similar. How do I ease into this when these situations are not very frequent?

During this therapy I have been put into a situation that required me to read (not planned!) and the SLOW TALK worked wonders but my anxiety was very high. It seemed like too big a step.

Does anyone have any suggestions on what I can do to ease into this? I was thinking to maybe sign up to volunteer to read to young kids or seniors, but my time is pretty limited.

Thanks for any suggestions.

Also, I notice my anxiety is worse when I do not know when I will have to read. For example I do a little better when I can volunteer for it or if we are going around in order and I can mentally prepare. But what seems to really spike the anxiety is when I am randomly called on. It’s like hearing my name called out loud gives me a rush of adrenaline and cortisol. Any ideas on how to deal with this? Again, I know it is extremely specific, but it is agonizing.


The way you describe your anxiety is what I would say is pretty “normal” for most group members. It’s not specific or different. I know that you mean to say that your anxiety happens in specific situations. I know that. Each person here will say their anxiety happens in specific situations, and some might also say it happens ALL the time.

In the groups we practice different situations for this reason. We practice exercises where the person knows and can prepare themselves for the exercise, because this is a type of anxiety - anticipatory anxiety situations, or situations which require the person to prepare ahead of time. For some that is harder than the “put you on the spot” type of anxiety you describe here. We practice that too. We practice random call on you questions or other exercises where no one knows who will be next and activities in which no one knows the “right” answer, or there may not be a right answer.

For sure the thing for us all to practice in this therapy is the basics of slowing down, not tensing up, Slow Talk. You already know that. You say as much when you described how Slow Talk helped you in that unplanned situation. It helps in both planned and unplanned situations. We all know this is a foundational part, very important part of the whole process of controlling the rush of adrenaline and cortisol. For you, in these unexpected moments, it becomes even more important that you keep practicing this. The belief system you are putting into place in your head through the concepts, other concepts, will, in time, also come together to help you lessen the reflex of anxiety, as it is tied to a belief/rejection of oneself. When those beliefs turn around, combined with the more physical stuff you are practicing like Slow Talk, the ability to face any and all of the situations just gets better and better.

So, how can YOU find ways to practice? Look around you for opportunities. I will not know what’s available in your area, but I can tell you what we’ve done here. Yes, I think maybe signing up for a volunteer library reading activity would be very proactive and helpful. You see this as a controlled situation perhaps. From my perspective, it doesn’t matter if it’s controlled or not, the ability to apply your calming strategies to that situation will bleed over into others. And, in reality, having taught kids and just living life, nothing is truly a controlled activity. With kids, anything can happen. At any moment they can say something, they can express displeasure or excitement. You may not know what you’re reading at all, the plan may change last minute. Welcome to the life of a teacher. Welcome to the life of a volunteer. So, that’s a great idea.

Here our group members make it a habit of going to the Laugh Club which is every other Friday. It’s good for numerous reasons, but what I find is that no club session is the same. Sometimes we are asked to introduce ourselves to the group. Sometimes not. Sometimes we are asked to answer a question randomly. Sometimes not. Sometimes we are asked to do a physical activity that we’ve never done before. Sometimes it’s just as expected. The entire sum of these sessions has helped always to allow, to provide an opportunity for each of us to put the strategies into place in a different situation, one maybe separate from school or work or people that you know, so this could also be seen as a safe, “other” place to practice your therapy. Plus, laugh club is just great anyway. I bet there’s one in your area.

Toastmasters is a place where people practice public speaking and you may think to yourself, wow, that is too much for me. Sure, I understand that. Here, I can use their website to find that there are hundreds of clubs in this city, each on a different day, different time. If I wanted, and I have done this, I could visit a different club each day of the week, or at least I could try one each week. What usually happens at those meetings when they have guests (me) is that I have to introduce myself at first, and sometimes I have to then stand up and also say closing opinions. Few seconds there, few seconds here. That’s it. Sometimes there is an opportunity for guests to participate in what they call “table topics” which are impromptu speeches. They ask a random question and the speaker has 2 minutes to answer. Those are great exercises, if you can rationally deal with it in a healthy way during and after, to help you with “on the spot” type of scenarios.

These are just two that come to mind quickly. Each and every activity we’ve done here outside of the groups, in the evenings or on weekends, allows for me to employ the therapy strategies. The expected and unexpected always happen. It’s kind of what you make of it, and if you take the opportunity. I bet you could identify 10 great examples of free meet up groups in your area that might have the chance for both prepared and unexpected moments in which to practice slow talk. The skills of slowing down, not tensing up, loosening up and taking your time, and the cognitive beliefs that go along with knowing that you have the right to slow down and not be pressured - all of those things are the biggest part of being better able to remain calm and rational for those moments of “sudden on the spot” situations. So if you feel that is something you need to work on and can work on, even with setbacks while staying rational that the success is in the doing and not the perceived quality, then look for those type of situations.

Good job! You are DOING. That is often the hardest part for people. We all may do the therapy and understand, but sooner or later, we all need the DOING part. Well done.


Kit, I have The exact same issue. For me, what makes matters worse, is that I now work remotely and have fewer opportunities for in person meetings and interactions. When these types of situations arise I feel the anxiety so much more. Exposure and practice is the key for me. I’ve been to Toastmasters and I do believe that it is very helpful for people who have performance anxiety. You’re volunteering suggestion I also think it is a very good one. Finding ways to get exposure is a good strategy.

Others in this forum have suggested Skype for study groups. I was thinking it might be neat to have a moderated Skype forum where we do table topics, are called on randomly, etc as practice? I would definitely be up for something like that and a Skype-based forum may be helpful for folks that don’t have a lot of spare time. Would something like this be of interest to you? Mateo, any thoughts on this?


I think you’re come up with a great idea. Using skype to run not necessarily a group, but a group for specific activities. Yeah, I think that’s a great idea. We had a group member in the last international group who is a on a weekly (or is it daily) laugh skype call. You could definitely use Skype to practice “put you on the spot” type of questions - that is an excellent way to practice, and a great way for anyone to get started. We’re all here now, so that means we’ve all got computers! Great idea, Bonzi!


Sorry it took me so long to reply. I had an idea so let me know what you think. It seems like everyone who does this program would benefit from a therapy group similar to the one in Phoenix. Maybe whenever anyone purchases this program they could have each person select yes or no to the question: “Are you interested in meeting others in your area also doing this program?” If we mark yes then the institute would put us in touch with people in our city who are working on the program and we can start our own group. One person could act as a facilitator and maybe Dr. Richard’s could provide us with a list of group exercises. We could find a set location, meet weekly, and people can come and go as needed.

I do like the Skype idea but it is almost impossible for me to get quiet time at home as I have a very needy toddler and I think the in-person setting would be more beneficial anyway.

Let me know what you think of this idea. Thank you!