Written by Madison Petersen
Searching for a proper OCD Therapist can be an obnoxiously strenuous task. Not only is it difficult to find a therapist you can connect with, but finding one specifically trained to treat OCD and similar anxiety disorders can be as easy as finding Waldo.
The Atlantic published an article by Olga Khazan in 2016. She wrote, “Many OCD sufferers and their families say finding the right kind of therapy is the most difficult part of overcoming the disease. Because of the dearth of psychologists with experience in [Exposure Response Prevention, or] ERP, as well as geographic and financial barriers, some studies estimate it takes OCD sufferers 17 years to find proper treatment from the onset of symptoms.” (‘The Only Cure for OCD Treatment is expensive, elusive, and scary,’ Olga Khazan, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/10/exposure-response-prevention-for-ocd/505538/).
Seventeen years?! That’s just too long. But why ERP? Why does having ERP experience make such a difference in a therapist?
Khazan went on to explain that ERP simply is “the gold-standard treatment for people with OCD.” It is “radically different” from plain talk therapy, which tends to focus on patients’ childhood, past relationships, and comparing to present-day problems. For OCD that talk therapy may not even matter at all! Instead what’s needed is a focus on behavior; presenting a fear that will force patients to confront their obsessive thoughts relentlessly. This exercise alone can generate so many more positive brain changes in the individual over time, but quite importantly it can adjust the patient’s relationship with their fear and anxiety by removing their compulsions.
One of our in-house OCD and Anxiety Specialty Therapists commented on why it is far better to find a therapist who has been trained in ERP by comparing the experience to car repair. “Selecting an unspecialized therapist is as unhelpful as taking your car with major engine problems into a servicer who can only change the oil or replace windshield wipers. The unskilled therapist may help with surface issues, but the OCD condition will remain unrepaired, and sometimes worse off than before,” (Nathan Peterson, OCD and Anxiety Treatment Center).
To help simplify a search for a decent therapist, we’ve written a map for your reference. Inclusive is signature green flags to look for when interviewing a Behavior Therapist. See below.
A specialized OCD and Anxiety Therapist should-
Be trained in Cognitive Behavior Treatment (CBT) and Exposure Response Prevention
Be licensed by either having completed a Behavioral Psychology graduate program or a Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Behavioral Treatment
Value using medication as an addition to behavior treatment, and able to offer suggestions
Work at a professional health facility that commonly treats patients with OCD and similar anxiety disorders, and is successful at it
Is willing to assist in ways that are necessary in order to have effective exposures, including going outside of the clinic or doing difficult or sometimes uncomfortable things
Treat you as a person, not only as an OCD patient
Of course, you may not need to look very far because you can always find incredible health professionals here at the OCD and Anxiety Treatment Center.