He gradually began working with people who had anxiety disorders, and turned the practice into a full-scale anxiety clinic. He founded the Anxiety Clinic of Arizona and treated people with panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and social anxiety disorder. The first social anxiety groups occurred at this time and have continued through the present day. As the clinic reputation grew, Dr. Richards and staff made the decision to focus entirely on social anxiety disorder, because there was virtually no help for this problem anywhere in the world. The Social Anxiety Institute was officially founded in 1999, as a way to indicate to everyone that the institution treated and worked with people who had social anxiety disorder only. Prior to the official re-naming and incorporation, Dr. Richards had already begun working solely with social anxiety people. The first international group happened accidentally in 1998, but within several weeks of agreeing to do it, the first "international" group was in operation.
As the Social Anxiety Institute grew, he established the first web site on the internet entirely dedicated to social anxiety. In 1999, the Social Anxiety Institute website became active and continues to this day. It was totally updated and revised in at the beginning of 2013, and has increased its presence on the internet as a source for information on social anxiety disorder. As a result of his prior experience dealing with other anxiety disorders, he had written and published the first website that dealt solely with all the anxiety disorders. Prior to this, The Anxiety Network became operational in 1995, and continues to this day, reaching 40,000 people a month.
Today, Dr. Richards is seen as one of the leading clinical authorities on social anxiety disorder, due to the international reputation of the Social Anxiety Institute and the fact that he has seen more patients with social anxiety disorder than any other therapist or psychologist in practice. People travel to SAI from every corner of the world because adequate treatment for social anxiety disorder does not yet exist. The international program at the Social Anxiety Institute has been operating continuously since 1998. The treatment programs at the Social Anxiety Institute are the most comprehensive and therapeutic programs in the world.
The weekly all-day Saturday programs continue to run, and the program has grown exponentially since 1994. The current Saturday group is made up of people from all over the United States -- people who have moved here to receive treatment, as treatment for social anxiety virtually does not exist in the U.S. yet. The Social Anxiety Institute has become a national and international treatment center.
In addition to speaking engagements, Dr. Richards has organized and run large conferences concerning social anxiety disorder in San Diego, San Francisco, Chicago, Davenport, IA/Moline, IL, and in Phoenix.