Suggested support group meeting format (may be modified for individual groups).

Social Phobics Anonymous / Social Anxiety Anonymous Meeting Format Guide:

Some find it helpful to read from this format while leading the group…

(Read preamble below before each meeting and then follow the format outlined below that).


“Social Phobics Anonymous (SPA), also known as Social Anxiety Anonymous (SOCAA), is a 12 Step recovery program for people who suffer from any of the following problems: Social Anxiety, Social Phobia, Shyness problems, Performance Anxiety & Paruresis (pronounced pair-YUR-eesus).
    Our primary purpose is to recover from excessive social anxiety and to help others. SPA strives to provide a non-competitive, non-pressuring environment in our support groups and fellowship. We operate under the philosophy of ‘take what you like and leave the rest’….
     In SPA it is suggested that we do our best to refrain from gossip or criticism. It is also suggested that we also refrain from evaluating the progress of fellow group members…  Simply put, we try to have a social anxiety recovery group rather than engaging in group social anxiety–

 Along these lines, the 12 Steps of SPA have been found to be very effective in healing social anxiety problems. We gently encourage group members to keep coming back each week and to study and practice the 12 Steps of SPA in depth in order to enhance their ongoing recovery. May we let the Love, Understanding and Wisdom of the program grow within us one day at a time.” 

Meeting Format

((Special Note for Telephone Groups: Be sure to remind people frequently about the ‘Star 2’ (MUTE) and ‘Star 3’ (TALK) functions as newcomers arrive at any time during the group…))

1) Opening Readings:

  1. A) “12 Steps of Social Phobics Anonymous”: (Available at: )


      ((Ask for a volunteer to read the SPA 12 Steps, if no one volunteers after 5 minutes then the chairperson reads.))  
  B) “Social Anxiety and Trust”:

   **((Read, or ask for a volunteer to read, any four sections from “Social Anxiety and Trust” ))    ((Available at )) ((Also read the Special Notes at the end on Romantic Love”))

C) Additional Literature Reading:

“Now we do our third reading. Anyone may read for up to 6 or 7 minutes from any recommended program literature (includes anything off the SPA website at or people may also read from any ‘Emotions Anonymous’, ‘CODA’, ‘A.A’. or ‘Alanon literature’…”  

D) Reading the “Group Rules” (the moderator will be emailed these rules, and should read them in each group before opening for sharing)

2) Structured sharing Until (approx) 10 minutes of the hour: 

“Now we will open for structured sharing. At this point in the group, one person shares at a time while everyone listens–  We ask people do their best to refrain from ‘cross talk’– which is engaging in back and forth conversation, or commenting directly on another persons’ share. If anyone is wanting regular conversation, there is time set aside for that after the formal group.” 

“There are five different ways that people can share in our groups–
1) Sharing Personal struggles. By sharing the hard stuff we lighten our load and relieve stress.

2)Sharing progress: By sharing any progress that we may have made, we give hope to others and also reinforce and strengthen that progress for ourselves.

3)Asking questions: Feel feel free to ask the group as many questions as you like about how to deal with social anxiety in various situations. By asking questions about how to better cope with social anxiety we open ourselves to learning new tools and concepts of recovery. **Please keep in mind that anyone answering your question is not an authority on your personal situation, but is only sharing their personal opinions or thoughts as a fellow group member.

4) Answering questions, feel free to answer any questions put forth by other group members. You never have to answer anyone’s questions, it’s ok to just listen, but helping others can help you as well. Please keep to “I messages, however, when responding to other peoples questions. An “I message” is any statement where we say “I think”, or “I feel”, or “In my personal opinion” rather than telling anyone else what they should do. With “I messages” we are really only talking about ourselves and what we think, and we are not talking about the person who asked the question. This gives everyone space to follow their own personal path of recovery without feeling any pressure or judgement from anyone else.”

5) Another way that people can share in our groups is through “Reading and reflecting”, when one reads and reflects, one picks one or two paragraphs from Social Anxiety Anonymous approved literature and then shares their own personal thoughts or feelings about what they just read. When we read and reflect we are only talking about ourselves and our own personal interpretation of the literature.

So those are the five ways of sharing that we are open for right now– feel free to do any of the five– sharing personal struggles, or personal progress, or by asking for help through asking the group questions or by answering questions from your own personal point of view, or by reading small one or two paragraph quotations of literature and then responding to what you read with your own thoughts and feelings.

So at this point, we are open for sharing. Please also remember to press Star six on your telephone before speaking, and please also be sure to listen carefully to make sure that you hear a recording that says that muting is cancelled as well, in order to make sure that others can hear you. Please also keep your phone muted when not speaking. Pressing Star six on your telephone a second time, will mute your line so that background noise on your side won’t come into the call.

So anyway, we are now open for sharing and other forms of participation at this time!”


3) Reading Of The Suggested Tools of Recovery ((At (approximately) 10 minutes of the hour)).

    ((Read or get a volunteer to read)) “The Suggested SPA Tools of Recovery” (which     are now seperately listed on )

((Afterwards open for a “brief sharing on the tools”)). 


((At roughly 10 after the hour)) 

“If anyone wants to read anything to the group they may now do so from any SPA approved-literature. Please try to keep readings to 10 minutes or less.”  
5) Resume sharing until end of meeting 2 hours after the start (note the moderator may end 15 minutes early if it is very quiet). . 
6) End with Serenity Prayer: 

“We are out of time for this weeks group. Thanks everyone for coming and we encourage you to keep coming back each week. Now we will end with the serenity prayer which goes as follows–“

“God Grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference”. 
7) Leave conference call open for fellowship

    “The formal group is now closed. Those who wish to may remain on the line now for free conversation and fellowship. Have a great week!”  


A few helpful notes on chairing SPA groups–

Worrying about doing a good job as chairperson.

We all worry about this from time to times– it’s part of having social anxiety (as well as being human).

Just remember–

1) You don’t have to be perfect! Just do your best and let go of the rest!

2) It’s 100% OK to sound nervous. You can’t lose with this issue because–

A) If you sound nervous– people in the group will relate to you (since they are socially anxious too).  

B) If you are not nervous they will be inspired.

So either way (nervous or not)– you win! (And so does the group!).


 Forgetting parts of the format. (This is fine, you don’t have to run the group perfectly).

But if you forget / change the format very drastically for weeks on end, you might be gently (and privately) asked to let someone else chair the group for a while (you will still be welcome to come to the groups regardless!). This is because the healing benefits of SPA groups are derived from the 12 Step meeting format and the welfare of the many must be kept a priority.

 **NOTE: Nervousness while chairing a group is never considered to be changing or deviating from the format. A person can be as nervous as possible and still will be considered to have met the requirements of properly chairing the group as long as most of the format is followed most of the time (over a series of groups). �


Very Quiet Meetings

A) (More quiet than usual). Don’t feel responsible– very quiet meeting happened periodically.  

  1.    B) **SPA suggests NOT end the meeting early if the group is quiet.  We always keep the group going for 90 minutes whether there is a lot of [participation or not.  

Remember– Newcomers will arrive at any time (even 5 minutes before the end of the meeting).

So SPA suggests keep the meeting going just in case even one newcomer shows one minute before then end!  

  1. C) Don’t try to fill silences by talking yourself. Keep a watch and if there is 5 minutes of silence, just introduce a new topic and start sharing again. Struggling to fill all the silences yourself may tend to make you more socially anxious as you take on this unneccessary

Remember– Silences in a social anxiety group (or any conversation) are natural and good. They allow people to feel unpressured. Social silences can also have a spiritual quality. Never pressure the group to speak (this can backfire and make the group even more quiet). 
     **Keep a watch handy and if a silence lasts longer than 4 or 5 minutes– then throw out a new topic and open for sharing again.

Participants asking questions:

A) Any 1st or 2nd question from any group member becomes an additional topic of the group and is not a disruption of the format. Other members may answer such a question as they share.

 B) (Try to avoid letting this becoming a back-and-forth discussion).

Multiple questions from participants:

 C) Gently interrupt and defer multiple questions (more than two from any one person) until after the formal group (after the first 90 minutes).  

Bad phone connections / sound quality issues (How to fix this problem): 
     Get everyone to mute– (By asking every one to hit star and then “2” ).

      **Often there is feedback between two or more lines that can be broken if everyone mutes out for a minute. 


Sound quality still bad?  Get everyone to hang up and call back in. If everyone is complaining about a bad connection– then have everyone hang up and call back in (reestablish a new connection).  

Dealing with Disruptive People in the groups: Thankfully, this doesn’t occur very much in SPA, but it does sometimes come up–

  1. It’s best to err on the side of patience with disruptive individuals– just gently remind them of the format a few times (usually that is enough).

 2  It’s OK to interrupt people who are disrupting the format– but try to do so gently and explain why you are doing it.   
   C) **If someone breaks the format repeatedly after being reminded, you can then ask them to leave the meeting (remember the well-being of the many outweighs the well-being of the few).
�    D) If this is hard for you, you can try stating that this is an SPA policy if that makes it easier.  


  1. E) If You Need Help Dealing With A Disruptive Person In The Group,don’t feel guilty about it–But do feel free to contact SPA Central Service.  Our volunteers may not be able to solve every problem, but they will try to do their best. Email



Outside therapies or people pushing for changes in how we operate: We are Not Opposed To outside therapies, but our primary purpose is to share the 12 Step Approach To Recovery
   A) Pushing outside therapies in our groups is outside of our 12 Step mission.


  1. B) Generaly we ignore minor diversions and outside references–    C) **But if someone in the group person is really on a campaign to persistently and aggressively promote an outside therapy– handle this like any other format disruption. 

  2. D)
    Other concerns outside of regular group sharing– give out the number for the SPA General Service Office: 720.882.8976 or email: com 

  Remember–Chairing a group is an act of service– it can really help your social anxiety for many reasons!

A)  Service is a spiritual act that breaks the self-obsession of social anxiety. Chairing a group is one such way to do service.  

 B) Chairing a group teaches us how to move beyond our fears.

C) Chairing is a great way to learn more about the steps and the tools!

Please note: Although Social Anxiety Anonymous makes no public affiliations, there are many truly wonderful, valuable and worthwhile written sources of self-help (or famous self-help leaders) in both the commercial and / or more publicized non-profit sector and we never mean to discourage anyone from availing themselves of such helping resources in their personal lives.