Social Anxiety Anonymous is a modified 12 Step recovery program for people with Social Phobia and related problems like Social Anxiety Disorder.
These are crippling anxiety disorders that make it very hard to interact socially with others. Many people with social anxiety or social phobia find social interaction to be overwhelming. These are not mere assertiveness problems: Both Social Phobia and Social Anxiety Disorder are typified by anxious discomfort, that can range from moderate to acute, and often characterized by either avoidance or paralysis.
Some fears related to social phobia are more specific and some are more general but all tend to be characterized by great discomfort and “freezing up” / getting stuck.
The Social Anxiety Anonymous program of recovery is a path to overcoming these problems. It is completely free and widely distributed. Many people have copies and is very likely still used in support groups currently.
Due to the owner of the old website relapsing into social phobia (and since the organization has always had the rule that no one with social phobia is ever obligated or required to volunteer or provide service– since service is a social interaction, which is the very thing that we fear, and can become paralyzed by the most, the old site was abandoned and left unpaid for).
This does not mean that we discourage service, we encourage it, as it will help ones social anxiety problems, but it is never required or compelled, as with all 12 step programs, people take steps towards their personal recovery when they feel ready and willing to.
However, since detailed instructions on how one can support ones own support groups were posted on that website for over 10 years and are widely distributed, starting new support groups has always depended on the initiative of individuals.
New groups can be found where people have been willing to take the initiative to start them and copies of the literature are available where people have taken the initiative to post or otherwise share them.
12 Step programs have never grown from any kind of center, they have always grown from the grass roots, from where someone who wants to start a group starts one. Therefore it is a real misunderstanding to assume that someone owes groups to another person.
The good news is, and always has been that people start Social Anxiety Anonymous groups as an act of personal service, and can start such groups any time that they choose to. This has always been true. And no one would ever be able to stop this. What we never do, and what no 12 Step program has ever done, is to compel individuals to do service.
The entire 12 Step philosophy is based solely on individual initiative. In this sense Social Anxiety Anonymous is not a service provider, but is instead a path to recovery taken up by individuals when they feel personally ready to take the next step. Thus Social Anxiety Anonymous, as with all 12 Step programs, grows entirely based on individual initiative. As all 12 Step programs always have.
Here the is part of the automated email reply message for Social Anxiety Anonymous / Social Phobics Anonymous (still working to this day).
It still gives out this message about starting support groups ()explaining that anyone can start a group, no special requirements):
A VOLUNTEER WILL GET BACK TO YOU BASED ON AVAILABLE TIME: This will
depend on the availability of volunteers & also the nature of social anxiety disorder which we suffer from. Consequently sometimes this email service goes uncovered for long periods of time so we can’t guarantee a response. Social Anxiety Anonymous is a nonprofessional collection of volunteers often struggling with the unpredictability of their own social anxiety issues & so can’t guarantee sponsorship or personal contact with anyone. Therefore any service provided does not imply any further service owed. Nor can Social Anxiety Anonymous guarantee any other kind of service. Neither is formation of local or telephone support groups our responsibility, although Social Anxiety Anonymous reserves the right to only lend it’s name to groups that agree to follow it’s program of recovery, policies & codes.
The other publicly listed email service said almost exactly the same thing (I am pretty sure). That automated message was wiped because the answering service wasn’t checked for over a year after the web site was abandoned due the person owning that having increased problems with social phobia.
The email addresses for Social Anxiety Anonymous are listed in various places on the Internet and have also been widely shared.
**Please note: These posts are not to make anyone wrong. Misunderstandings happen all the time and we are not against or in disagreement with anyone, Very best to all.
Here is a copy of the text of the article on the old Social Anxiety Anonymous / Social Phobics Anonymous website about how anyone can start a Social Anxiety Anonymous / Social Phobics Anonymous support group–
This article was up on the site for nearly 10 years–
If You Want to Start Your Own Social Anxiety Anonymous Support Group, Read the Article Below:
How to start a Social Anxiety Anonymous / Social Phobics Anonymous Support Group: Some Helpful Tips
When the darkness comes for me, I will light a lamp.
With that lamp, I will light the way for others.
Together, we will find the new day.
It is through helping our fellow social anxiety sufferers that we ourselves are set free from our own anxiety problems.
We have found that there is a kind of spiritual principle at work here– there is something about helping others (especially helping those with the same problems that we have) that heals us as we do the helping.
In any case, here are 12 simple steps to starting an SPA support group that you may find useful (you might want to print this out):
1) If you start an SPA group we will list it for free on our web page (if you like) so that people can find out about it.
2) Find a centrally located meeting place. Churches or Synagogues often let support groups meet in their basements. You can also try hospitals, libraries, community centers, schools or universities. You may have to call a lot of places because many groups use these spaces, but if you keep at it you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a meeting space. If possible, find a place with free or inexpensive parking in a well lit area.
Some of these places require a small ‘rent’ of a few dollars a week or a month. If so, these places will usually lower the rent or even drop it to zero if you explain that you are starting a new group and won’t have a lot of people in the beginning.
The recommended way to pay for a room ‘rental’ is to take a collection at every meeting (pass the hat or the basket and people throw in a dollar or two or whatever they can). This usually covers the rent. Important– Always make it clear that nobody has to donate if they don’t want to. There should be no pressure about donations– only the the love and understanding of the fellowship.
3) Set a meeting time and keep to it faithfully. We suggest that you meet every week at exactly the same time. The reason is, if the time varies (or if you meet less than once a week) people will get confused about whether or not your meeting is ‘on’ or not this time around and they will tend not to come rather than waste a trip.
Be sure to be on time for the meeting and stay for the whole meeting time, even if no one else comes in the beginning. (Sometimes a new person will get lost on their first visit to your group and they might show up late– even in the last 5 minutes of the meeting, so just be patient and wait through the whole meeting time so that you can greet all newcomers and make them feel at home).
This will help your group to grow and help it meet that critical mass where it becomes a self-perpetuating support group, no longer dependent on you.
4) Advertise the support group meeting on an ongoing basis. **Very Important** Support groups rarely last very long by word of mouth alone. A regular ad in a newspaper is essential to the success of a local (face-to-face support group). However the good news is, you can often get this advertising for free or cheap. First, try calling the ‘Calendar’ department of your local Newspapers, they often list support groups for free.
A few flyers or an occasional ad won’t cut it. Sporadic efforts that don’t reach a large number of people generally won’t create the consistent attendence by newcomers needed to build and then sustain the support group.
Also important– Whichever way you get your ad listed, be sure to run it at least 3 times a month (month after month– year round). We have found that just running one ad a month– or running occasional ads– will almost never generate enough of a consistent response to build a sustained and ongoing SPA support group. Consistent advertising is key (although it often doesn’t have to be expensive).
How To Advertise the group for free or (usually) inexpensively: If your city or town calendar section won’t list your group for free, then try getting a classified ad. These are often not very expensive. If you can’t afford the Sunday section, then try a weekly edition (weekly ads are often cheaper). Note– if you live in major urban areas you may find that there is no way to avoiding paying a bit more for a an ongoing classified ad, even in the weekday sections.
Consider the cost of doing nothing. Keep in mind that the relatively small investment of time and money in starting a SPA support group is very much worth it. Ask yourself what the elimination of your social anxiety problems is worth to you personally.
Compare this to the ‘opportunity costs’ of missing out on the recovery from social anxiety that the SPA support group can provide– a continuation of miserable anxiety symptoms, possibly for years to come, continued reduced quality of life, lost or strained relationships with friends and family, lost job or educational opportunities and perhaps the lost opportunity to ever develop an intimate and meaningful relationship with that special someone (or the undermining of the quality of an existing intimate relationship). In light of this, many of us with anxiety disorders have decided that the small time and expense required to start an SPA group is far outweighed by the benefits.
5) Get the books. Once you have the recommended SPA books, we suggest that the first 1/3 of the meeting time be spent reading from the books to the group.
6) You do not have to have recovered from social anxiety yet yourself and you do not have to understand the books yet either to start a Social Phobics Anonymous support group.
NOTE: The above article (listed for nearly 10 years on the website) was written before the advent of Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and also Meetup, which make the formation of support groups even easier. Now you can start a new gathering / promotion space for your support group in literally minutes (Internet message boards are also a good space to start). With the exception of Meetup, these new groups will begin with online posts, although there you can also post a conference call phone number to invite people to a phone call group where you can meet and talk (using one of the many free telephone conference call services, easily found online). With Meetup, the creation of a live group is even easier and results are often forthcoming locally within one or two weeks. As with all support groups for people with Social Anxiety problems, persistence is key to developing a consistent group. Many people with social anxiety have a phobia of live groups, so expect lots of turnover when you get to the live group component. Don’t give up anyway, and eventually you will have a stable core of group members.
In order to properly name your group according to the Social Anxiety Anonymous Licensing policy, see also Finding Social Phobics Anonymous support groups and the new SocAA / SPA licensing policy
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.