Study Into Effectiveness Of Online CBT For Social Anxiety In Young People

A research study (Spense et al., 2011) published in JAMA Psychiatry was conducted to assess the effectiveness of online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), facilitated by professionally qualified psychologists, in children and young people between the ages of ten years and seventeen years. A total of 103 children and young people participated in the study.

The children and young people were split into two groups:

  • GROUP ONE: Received online CBT.
  • GROUP TWO: Received online supportive therapy.


The children and young people who received online CBT underwent treatment that had a duration of ten weeks and included the following components:

  • psychoeducation (help with the understanding of what social anxiety is)
  • exposure therapy
  • training in social skills
  • training in relapse prevention


The group of children and young people who received online supportive therapy underwent treatment (also spread over ten weeks) that included the following components:

  • being taught about social anxiety disorder
  • being taught about the importance of friendships
  • being taught about healthy habits such as exercise
  • being taught strategies about how to cope with difficult social interactions

The study revealed that those who received online CBT (Group One) benefitted significantly more from their treatment than those in Group Two (who had received supportive therapy).

The researchers found that not only was online CBT treatment effective in significantly ameliorating symptoms of social anxiety but it was also cost-effective and was associated with both reduced needs for medication and improved school performance.

Another study (Nordh et al., 2021) compared the effectiveness of online CBT with traditional, face-to-face, clinic-based CBT for adolescents suffering from anxiety. The study involved 115 participants aged between 12 years and 18 years.

These participants were split into two groups:

  • GROUP ONE: Those in group one received online CBT
  • GROUP TWO: Those in group two received traditional, clinic-based CBT.

N.B  Whilst the delivery systems of the CBT differed (online or clinic-based), the CONTENT OF THE CBT WAS THE SAME FOR BOTH GROUPS.


The researchers found that online CBT (received by group one) was equally effective as traditional, clinic-based CBT (received by group two); a 12-month follow-up found that, in both conditions, approximately eight out of ten adolescents no longer met the criteria to be diagnosed with anxiety.

Furthermore, parents rated online CBT therapy and clinic-based CBT as equally credible.



Susan H Spence, Caroline L Donovan, Sonja March, Amanda Gamble, Renee E Anderson, Samantha Prosser, Justin Kenardy

Journal of consulting and clinical psychology 79 (5), 629, 2011

Nordh M, Wahlund T, Jolstedt M, Sahlin H, Bjureberg J, Ahlen J, Lalouni M, Salomonsson S, Vigerland S, Lavner M, Öst LG, Lenhard F, Hesser H, Mataix-Cols D, Högström J, Serlachius E. Therapist-Guided Internet-Delivered Cognitive Behavioral Therapy vs Internet-Delivered Supportive Therapy for Children and Adolescents With Social Anxiety Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Psychiatry. 2021 Jul 1;78(7):705-713. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2021.0469. PMID: 33978699; PMCID: PMC8117054.


David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE). is reader-supported. When you buy through links on this site, I may earn an affiliate commission.