More great news from AI-Therapy! There are currently several studies in progress designed to test how well the program works. The latest study, from the University of British Columbia, is showing impressive results, adding to the growing pile of evidence backing up the program. These preliminary results are based on students who participated in a randomized controlled trial. The work was led by Dr. Frances Chen and Dr. Chris Richardson, with Hugh McCall and Keith Patena running the day-to-day operations. Hugh will be presenting a poster on the preliminary results at two UBC research conferences (MURC & PURC).

The predecessor to AI-Therapy was created during my PhD from 2007-2011. For my thesis I designed and programmed (in PHP!) a program targeting social anxiety among those who stutter. After completing my studies I saw enormous potential for this field. I wanted to build state-of-the-art, evidence-based mental health treatment programs available to the everyone. Therefore, in August 2012 I launched AI-Therapy with the rebuilt “Overcome Social Anxiety” treatment program.

Since our launch in 2012 we have been growing organically, without external investment. The reduction in social anxiety symptoms we see among our users has been fantastic. For the statistical nerds out there, the effect size is 1.8, which is exceptional. However, user data is not a replacement for proper randomized control trials. Therefore, these latest results from UBC are an exciting validation of what we are seeing with our users.

These are exciting times for AI-Therapy, and the field of computerized therapy as a whole. I’ll leave you with some of the most recent testimonials from our users:

  • “Very informative and helpful program that I highly recommend for everyone suffering from social phobia. It encouraged me to really work on my disorder and I made huge progress! I’ve been going to a therapist and using medicine for quite a while but this I believe has been the most effective of all.”(Guðrún, 19, Iceland)
  • “Excellent resource, well worth it. I have tried many different CBT programs, workbooks, various therapists, and many different medications. AI-therapy has been the most effective of any of these!”(CM, 31, United States)
  • “Excellent course which shows deep understanding of the problems of social anxiety. I have learnt very much and would recommend this course. There are many strategies it recommends for dealing with this problem. It is written by experts in psychology. I have no hesitation in recommending this well structured course.”(Anonymous)
  • “Nothing else has ever helped me as much as this CBT program. I struggled with social anxiety for most of my life, and it has certainly held me back from experiencing life to its fullest. I began this program feeling very hopeless about my situation, thinking nothing could change my mindset and that my life would never be worth much. Now, I have the tools to fight the anxious thoughts and feel very confident about my future.” (Anonymous).


fdh2Fjola  Helgadottir, PhD is a registered psychologist at the Vancouver CBT Centre, who has previously 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. Twitter: @drfjola

Quality of life is worse if you have social anxiety

Quality of life measures provide clinicians with information about their client’s “real life”. What do I mean by mean by “real life”? This includes topics like health, self-esteem, goals and values, money, work, hobbies, learning, creativity, love, friends, family, community, etc. People are asked to subjectively assess how satisfied they are with these various categories. Study after study has shown that living with an anxiety disorder can have a significant negative impact in all of these areas. It is important for effective therapy to consider the broader implications of a disorder, rather than focus purely on the specific symptoms.

The World Congress of CBT

At the 7th World Congress of CBT I attended a symposium called “Quality of Life and Anxiety Disorders”. The presenters included leading authorities in CBT, such as Lars-Göran Öst (Sweden), Lisa Liberman (Chile) Ron Rapee (Australia) and Thomas Ollendick (Virginia, USA). I was very impressed with the talks. Several of these researchers are investigating complex topics. As we all know, life is chaotic and complicated, and when we have a better understanding of the intricacies of anxiety disorders we will be be able to devise better treatments.

Quality of life and anxiety disorders at the 7th world congress of CBT: Discussant Thomas Ollendick
Quality of life and anxiety disorders at the 7th world congress of CBT: Discussant Thomas Ollendick

The cultural component of social anxiety

As a social anxiety researcher, one study that I found particularly interesting was conducted by Professor Öst of Stockholm University. He compared a group of social anxious individuals from the USA with a similar group from Sweden. He found that social anxiety interfered more with people’s real lives in America.

I asked Professor Öst to speculate on why he thought this might be the case. He hypothesized that it is likely cultural. Being an introvert is perhaps more consistent with Swedish culture. On the other hand, American culture may place a higher value on outgoing personality types. This is not to say that socially anxious individuals do not suffer in Sweden; it is simply saying that there is a cultural component to anxiety disorders that we should consider. Professor Rapee added that similar findings have been found in studies comparing Asian cultures with Western cultures.

The good news for Americans with social anxiety is that there are effective treatments, and these treatments are known to improve overall quality of life. Perhaps this why we are seeing such a strong interest from the US in seeking online treatment with AI-Therapy’s social anxiety program.



Fjola  Helgadottir, PhD, MClinPsych, is a clinical psychologist, a senior research clinician at the University of Oxford, and is a co-creator of, an online CBT treatment program for overcoming social anxiety