All of us at AI-Therapy wish you a very happy New Year!

Since we launched in 2012, the program has made tremendous changes to the lives of many of our users (from more than 30 countries). We always love getting feedback. Here is an email we received from one of our users in 2015 (reprinted with permission):

Dear Fjola and Ross,

Although I’ve just started the course, I feel I must write and let you know how much I’ve found it so helpful and showing an excellent and deep understanding of social anxiety. I’ve suffered for a long time. Over the last ten years I’ve had sixteen CBT sessions, a year of talk therapy and now in my second year of psychotherapy for it. In the short time of your course I’ve learnt far more from you than I have in the last ten years from any of the other therapies I’ve mentioned, let alone the number of self help books I’ve read!

I am really grateful for your expertise and wish I had come across your site much earlier. I am really enjoying your course and it is already beginning to make improvements for me. This is far more than I can say about the help I have had, which, in some cases has made me worse.

Thank you again.

It’s always a great reminder for us to get emails likes these. Let’s make 2016 the year that you tackle your social anxiety with a vengeance!

The past few months have been slow on the AI-Therapy blog, but rest assured that we’ve been very busy. We have reached some major milestones.

Science Magazine

The synthetic therapist

In July we were featured in a Science Magazine special issue on Artificial Intelligence. The article is called “The synthetic therapist”, and gives an overview of the current state of the art for administering evidence based clinical psychology via computerized therapy. The article describes an Overcome Social Anxiety user’s experience with the  program:

[…] the program assumed the role of full-fledged therapist, guiding her through a regimen of real-world exercises for taking control. It sounds like a typical success story for clinical psychology. But no human psychologist was involved.

There is an open access podcast where the author, John Bohannon, shares his thoughts on the field (a link can be found on this page). The article itself is behind a paywall, but can be downloaded here for those with institutional access (note the article refers to AI-Therapy as CBTpsych, which is its original name).

Granville Youth Health Centre, Vancouver Canada

AI-Therapy is excited to announce that we have received a grant from St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation’s Enhanced Patient Care Fund. The Inner City Youth Program provides care for at-risk youth in Vancouver’s inner-city area. We will be working with ICY to develop an online social anxiety treatment specifically targeted towards this population. Stay tuned for more updates on this.

Can sauerkraut cure social anxiety? Yesterday an article was published in the Huffington Post with the title “Sauerkraut Could Be The Secret To Curing Social Anxiety“. The timing of this article is interesting, as only a few weeks ago John Bohannon conducted a fantastic experiment that demonstrates why you should be skeptical of health new stories. I highly recommend you read the full article. In brief, he conducted a bogus study that appears to demonstrate that eating chocolate helps people lose weight (wouldn’t that be great!?). Pretty soon his results were being reported by media outlets around the world. This exposed several weak links in the way scientific studies are conducted and distributed:

  • Statistics: There are many ways that statistics can lead a scientific study astray. One of the most common is a process known as data dredging, which involves testing a large number of hypotheses until one is found that appears to be statistically significant. However, effects found in this manner are usually due to random chance. Data dredging is often done unconsciously by scientists who are under pressure to publish results.
  • Effect size: Even when an effect is real, it is important to know how strong the effect is. In some cases it will be so weak that its impact is negligible.
  • Peer review: Peer review is one of the strongest tools we have to prevent the publication of poor quality work. However, even this system is flawed. As John Bohannon discovered in another expose, there are many so-called “academic journals” that claim to conduct peer review but will actually publish anything if a fee is paid.
  • Lack of fact checking: Often a journalist will lift a story directly from a press release without doing any background research about the publication or its authors.
  • Stories that sell: In order to increase sales, stories are usually given a “spin” to make them more exciting. This often involves catchy, but misleading, headlines, or twisting and oversimplifying the results.

All of these factors contribute to the poor state of health science reporting. It is not uncommon to see completely contradicty stories that are published within weeks of each other.


When you see a headline like “Sauerkraut Could Be The Secret To Curing Social Anxiety” you should resist the temptation to run to your local German deli and stock up on fermented cabbage. Rather, you should base your decisions on research that has stood the test of time, with multiple independent studies showing the same outcome. If you are serious about tackling social anxiety you should use a technique like cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), which has been demonstrated to be effective in hundreds of studies.


Fjola  Helgadottir, PhD, CPsychol, is a clinical psychologist, who has worked in Australia and at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. She is AI-Therapy’s director and co-creator of AI-Therapy’s Overcome Social Anxiety program and the author of Flourish: Living happily while trying to conceive. Twitter: @drfjola

It can be very hard to understand the impact that anxiety problems have on those who suffer from them. For example, people with social anxiety are often told to simply “get over it” by the people in their lives. This attitude usually doesn’t stem from a lack of compassion, but rather a lack of understanding. In reality, you can’t “just get over” anxiety problems any more than you can “just get over” a broken leg. Effective treatments for both conditions exist, but recovery can be a lengthy and a challenging process.

I came across an excellent cartoon series where an artist illustrates the role of anxiety in her life. Click below to see the whole post:

Anxiety cartoon


Fjola  Helgadottir, PhD, CPsychol, is a clinical psychologist, who has worked in Australia and at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. She is AI-Therapy’s director and co-creator of AI-Therapy’s Overcome Social Anxiety program and the creator of Flourish: Living happily while trying to conceive. Twitter: @drfjola

In this video I explain one of the core concepts behind social anxiety: safety behaviors. Safety behaviors maintain social anxiety, because when we engage in them we are missing opportunities to learn from our success. Therefore, we continue to feel anxious and lose confidence.

In a recent testimonial, a user of our Overcome Social Anxiety program describes how stopping safety behavior has made major changes to his life! Our program creates a personalized formulation for each user. This includes identifying safety behaviors, and learning techniques for stopping them. You can learn more about the program here.


Fjola  Helgadottir, PhD, CPsychol, is a clinical psychologist, who has worked in Australia and at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. She is AI-Therapy’s director and co-creator of AI-Therapy’s Overcome Social Anxiety program and the creator of Flourish: Living happily while trying to conceive. Twitter: @drfjola

For my PhD I created an online social anxiety treatment for people who stutter or stammer. The results were fantastic. In fact, they were so good that Ross Menzies and I wanted to make the tool available for everyone with social anxiety, and that’s how AI-Therapy was born.

AI-Therapy now has hundreds of users from all over the world, and our results (technically known as the program’s “effect size“) have been just as strong as the original PhD version. Actually, they are even more promising as they are now based on a larger population of users.

Statistics aside, it’s also important to hear people’s stories. Unfortunately, the nature of social anxiety makes it difficult for those who suffer to speak openly about the problems. Therefore, I was extremely excited to (quite randomly) come across the following article:

How cognitive behaviour therapy helped me

It was written by a user of my PhD program, and talks about the impact CBT has had on his life. I found it humbling that the program I created made such a difference to someone who has lived with social anxiety for over 70 years.

Here are a few quotes:

The programme was one of the great events of my life. It acknowledged that people who stammer often have undesirable thoughts and beliefs and I was shown how to change these. The results were immediate. The major item I picked up from the programme was the dropping of safety behaviours.

Shortly after the course finished I attended a dinner with 25 people. Normally this would involve the minimum of social conversation from me. On this occasion I made use of the techniques I had picked up and talked just about non-stop and on several occasions I was told to stop talking and eat as everyone was waiting for me to finish my meal so they could have the next course served.

Each conversation that I approach I now face with determination and courage. No longer do I stand back and rehearse what I am going to say before saying it. I have become very outspoken and have no problem at all in speaking up at meetings to add to the discussion. People I have met since completing the CBT programme have no idea that I stammer and when I tell them they are amazed by my story of how CBT changed my life.

I highly recommend you read his whole story. As I mentioned, AI-Therapy’s Overcome Social Anxiety program has been enhanced to be suitable for anyone with social anxiety. I hope it continues to change lives.


Fjola  Helgadottir, PhD, CPsychol, is a clinical psychologist, who has worked in Australia and at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. She is AI-Therapy’s director and co-creator of AI-Therapy’s Overcome Social Anxiety program and the creator of Overcome Fertility Stress. Twitter: @drfjola

Several hundreds of people from all over the world have already benefited from the program! We’ve had users from 28 different countries, and here is a message for each one:

  1. Australia: Happy New Year! (does anyone know how to say this in an Aboriginal language?)
  2. Bahrain:  سنة جديدة سعيدة
  3. Belgium: Gelukkig nieuwjaar, Ein glückliches neues Jahr!, Bonne année!
  4. Canada: Happy New Year!, Bonne année!
  5. China: 新年快樂!
  6. DenmarkGodt NytÅr!
  7. FranceBonne année!
  8. GermanyEin glückliches neues Jahr!
  9. Iceland: Gleðilegt ár!
  10. Ireland: Happy New Year, bhliain nua sásta!
  11. Israel: שנה טובה ומבורכת and سنة جديدة سعيدة
  12. Japan: 明けましておめでとうございます
  13. Luxembourg: Bonne année!, Ein glückliches neues Jahr! (is there another term in Luxembourgish?)
  14. New Zealand: Happy New Year!, Tau Hou oaoa!
  15. NorwayGodt Nytt År!
  16. Qatar: سنة جديدة سعيدة
  17. Poland: Szczesliwego Nowego Roku!
  18. Saudi Arabia: سنة جديدة سعيدة
  19. Slovenia: srečno novo leto!
  20. Singapore: Happy New Year, Selamat Tahun Baru, புத்தாண்டு, 新年快樂
  21. South Korea:새해 복 많이 받으세요
  22. Spain: Feliz año nuevo!
  23. Sweden: Gott Nytt År!
  24. Switzerland: Bonne année!, Ein glückliches neues Jahr!, Buon Anno!, (does anyone know how to say this in Romansh?) 
  25. United Arab Emirates: سنة جديدة سعيدة
  26. United Kingdom: Happy New Year!
  27. United States of America: Happy New Year!
  28. Vietnam: Chúc mừng năm mới