Randomized controlled trial of acceptance and commitment therapy versus traditional cognitive behavior therapy for social anxiety disorder: Symptomatic and behavioral outcomes

James D. Herbert, Evan M. Forman, Joanna L. Kaye, Marina Gershkovich, Elizabeth Goetter, Erica K. Yuen, Lisa Glassman, Stephanie Goldstein, Peter Hitchcock, Jena Shaw Tronieri, Staci Berkowitz, & Stephanie Marando-Blanck

Only two trials have compared acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and traditional cognitive behavior therapy (tCBT) in the treatment of social anxiety disorder (SAD), with both finding no significant differences. These trials did not examine effects on observer-rated behavioral outcomes and did not explicitly quantify the dose of exposure therapy within each treatment. In a replication trial, one hundred and two individuals with SAD (per DSM-IV criteria) were randomized to 12 sessions of ACT (n = 49) or tCBT (n = 53) controlling for exposure dose and assessing behavioral outcomes. Assessments were completed at pre- and post-treatment using clinician-rated and self-report measures of social anxiety, quality of life, and overall functioning. Observer-rated behavioral measures of social performance were completed for a subsample of participants. Results indicated that participants across conditions received equivalent doses of exposure. Those who received tCBT evidenced greater improvements in self-reported social anxiety symptoms and overall functioning, which contrasts with prior studies finding no differences between tCBT and ACT in the treatment of social anxiety. Medium effect sizes, while not statistically significant, indicate that ACT participants may have had greater improvements in observer-rated social behavior than tCBT participants. The discrepancy between these symptom and behavioral outcomes, building upon prior literature, calls for more research to assess the differences between tCBT and ACT treatments in behavioral domains.

This article is restricted to ACBS members. Please join or login with your ACBS account.