Justin posted the previous comment on this thread. I am Matt posting here.
I feel very hesitant to say which program is best for overcoming social anxiety. As I am associated with the Social Anxiety Clinic, my opinion would be taken as biased, of course. Also, I have not used the other series mentioned here.
Long before I came to Phoenix I searched for books, tapes, anything to help me find a way to deal with social anxiety. Of course at the time I didn't know what social anxiety was. I was always in the bookstore looking for something that would resonate with me, some mention of the anxiety I felt and not just the depression, some mention of physiological symptoms related to social anxiety that went beyond just the description of the problem and discussed a treatment plan. Perhaps like some of you, I was also too nervous to purchase the books or even stand in the self-help aisle very long.
But, I did try a lot of books - workbooks and other books such as Feeling Good, New Mood Therapy. Then I would always come across articles in whatever newspaper or magazine that might hint at anxiety disorders or confidence, etc, and I would do the exercises they told me to do. Later I went to some therapists. I didn't know how to describe what I was going through, I was embarrassed to describe it fully. The therapists didn't really understand what I was trying to say. In their defense, I think it must be hard to help a person who doesn't know how to verbalize the problem, but I always felt too that they didn't have a clue where to begin with me. I think therapists these days are better able to perhaps notice social anxiety, but that doesn't mean they know how to help you with it.
I later read these books on shyness and embarrassment. My opinion and only my experience was that these resources didn't help me. Again, this is just my experience. I can say that I've met a lot of people in the groups who had the same experience, but I want to make it clear that I speak only for myself here. If those resources help you, then by all means that is great. I never got anything out of keeping journals, written exercises, reading any book, or doing any affirmation exercises. I think now that the point isn't that those things aren't perhaps part of the puzzle, it's just that things have to be done in the right way or order for one to believe it and build upon small improvements. I think those things "assume" a lot. They assume that a person can switch from a complete way of thinking to another by skipping a lot of steps.
When I found the website for the institute here, it was the first time I read anything that so exactly and directly connected with me and my "problem". My whole life really. There was no doubt in my mind, so I was fairly confident about the therapy series. It took me a while to make the decision, but I finally started the series. So after a lot of books/workbooks/anecdotal advice, the only other treatment program I have done has been SAI's. There seem to be some great comments on this other series here and I have not used it to give a credible opinion.
When I did do the series, I did it very consistently for 8 months before I came to group therapy in Phoenix. I started the series hoping that I'd find an escape route - like the series would get me to a point where I could make it in this world but still secretly avoid ever going in for help. But, in doing the series, I came to a point where I actually wanted to come in for help. I did feel the changes happening in my way of thinking and reacting to situations. The group therapy then gave me a boost of confidence, kind of putting the behavioral and the cognitive together. I was feeling a lot better having done the tape series, but it's not like I was out there doing behavioral exercises until the group.
For me, the series that I used, SAI's, always felt natural and right. I think the key is doing it everyday, consistently. I do agree with a previous comment that therapy can get boring. This is why a lot of us start and stop. We reach plateaus, we feel better and we kind of let off the gas pedal for a while, and then we come back later to work on it again. I originally did my therapy and was around the groups in different capacities for about a year and a half. During that time I really stuck with it and changed up the therapy multiple times, adapting what was important to me to make it less stale. I also got motivation from friends in the group. It was good to have close friends to continue to talk about the issues and to motivate each other to stay active.
My opinion again: I see different people doing the therapy, different personalities. It's often stated here in the group not to go into seeing anxiety problems as 1,000 different things - procrastination, perfectionism, confidence, eye contact, etc, etc. It's a very natural tendency to count all these things, and there are enough books on each and every problem that you could be reading them for the rest of your life. Here, the message is to take care of the anxiety globally, and the effects of the therapy bleed over to everything. Just as when anxiety starts to take control of your life, it bleeds into many other problems - when you do the therapy, the same idea applies. So I see some people who naturally want to slice up all the problems and treat them individually. Some people can seem to more easily accept the "global" idea. This helped me. I don't think I would ever overcome anxiety by reading one book on job interviews, and another on making conversation, and another on confidence, etc. These are all kind of symptoms, in my opinion and experience. As I did the therapy, these other things naturally became more rational too. So that now, sure, if I want to focus on those areas for my personal growth, maybe a book would help me on public speaking or procrastination and I could actually get something from it. Before, never. With the anxiety not answered first, no chance to improve on that "symptom". But still, the strongest foundation for me is still the cognitive therapy. Even when I'm facing a challenge now, say it's procrastinating on something (whatever example), I go back to the same therapy to get myself rational and move forward.
So this has been my experience. I only used the SAI series and it worked for me. I think whatever works for you is fine, but that you'll have to be consistent with it. Relearning is all about that. One thing is for sure - if someone buys a program and never uses it, it won't be effective!