For OCD, Consider a Specialist

By Jeremy Shuman and Brigette Selbert

Just as every patient has different goals in therapy, every therapist has their own areas of expertise. If you or someone you love struggles with OCD, finding a match between patient needs and therapist knowledge can be a top priority in making an effective treatment plan. Here are five advantages of working with an OCD specialist:

  1. We understand intrusive thoughts.  Nothing you say is going to shock us.  We’ve heard all the themes and we are long past having dramatic reactions to all the taboo topics.  Any fear you have about being misunderstood and sent to the hospital or reported to CPS, can be addressed by seeing a provider experience in working with ego-dystonic or otherwise upsetting intrusive thoughts.
  2. We can do a functional analysis.  OCD is tricky and understanding how it functions can be quite nuanced.  Doing CBT treatment planning on every patient builds confidence and skill in case conceptualization, which can be essential to making therapy effective at getting at the root of the behavior patterns.  A lot of the growth that patients experience is simply having a new way to understand their experience and some new language to describe it, and the functional analysis part of ERP does just that. 
  3. We have a lot of experience with exposure.  Exposure therapy can sound intimidating, but with an experienced therapist it feels brave and empowering.  An experienced therapist will be able to help set an individualized standard for the most helpful intensity of exposure.  Knowing when to push and when to advise caution helps keep patients in the sweet spot of exposure that will facilitate the most effective learning.  Experienced therapists will honor the grit and resilience in patients without pushing them to the point of dissociation.  There is no substitute for having first-hand experience with exposure therapy sessions!
  4. We know the terms.  If you reached out to a new therapist and wrote in an email that you had POCD, and then that potential therapist replied to you as if you had OCPD, you would be pretty distrusting of the safety of disclosure that you need to make in therapy.  A specialist not only knows all the colloquial terms and acronyms, but they do continuing-education specific to OCD and will look into the niche areas of intervention for suggestions of how to do the most effective response prevention for complex concerns.
  5. The research doesn’t lie!  ERP is a highly effective intervention for OCD and every provider who specializes in it has stories of clients who respond to just a few sessions of OCD-specific care after years of ineffective therapy.  If you’ve tried CBT in the past, but your provider was not fluent in the language of ERP, don’t consider that a failed trial.  The studies supporting ERP as a first-line treatment for OCD are done by folks with a lot of specific training.  Not everyone responds to CBT for OCD, but it is absolutely worth a shot to find out what the hype is about.

OCD doesn’t have to rule your life any longer! There is effective treatment available, by therapists who have the skills to show you how to overcome your OCD. If you are struggling to find relief and take back your life, make sure you are working with a therapist who specializes in OCD. 

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