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,

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.

Additional References:


We have all listened to a song on the radio and then the lyrics seem to get stuck in your head. The song keeps on playing over and over again. You feel slightly annoyed and then get distracted and the lyrics simply go away.  

Imagine if instead of a song it was a terrible thought or image which got trapped in your mind. The harder you tried to get rid of this thought or image the more you kept thinking about it. Then the thought created anxiety and distress. Which only made it more concrete in your mind. You start thinking that if there is anxiety the thought or image must be true. This thought or image now feels intense, true, and most of all frightening. Many people with Obsessive Compulsive disorder (OCD) feel this agony endlessly.  

OCD is a mental disorder which is characterized by 4 main components:

First, obsessions which are thoughts, images, or impulses that are intrusive and cause significant distress. This distress can feel like fear, doubt, disgust, or that something needs to be done “just right”. These thoughts are relentless and happen over and over again.  It often makes the individual feel out of control. These obsessions often develop into themes.  Common themes are: unwanted sexual thoughts, contamination, harm, losing control, perfectionism, and scrupulosity or religious obsessions.  The obsessions are not excessive worries about real-life issues and usually are not related to a current real-life situation.  

Second, compulsions which are repetitive behaviors or mental acts the individual performs as a response to the obsession. Compulsions are meant to take individuals away from the risk and distress. The largest issue is compulsions only provide momentary relief.  Common compulsions are: mentally reviewing situations, seeking reassurance, checking, washing, counting, and praying.  

Third, these obsessions and compulsions cause substantial distress. This can look different for each individual, but usually they are very time consuming. They impede on the normal activities such as working, going to school, having fun with friends, or developing meaningful relationships. Sufferers from OCD often have problems with self-esteem, due to feeling like they are not living the life they really want to be living. They avoid activities, objects, people, and places as an effort to stay away from the risk of having more obsessions which can make them feel isolated and alone.  

Forth, the person at some point recognizes these obsessions and compulsions are unnecessary or irrational. It is hard to recognize this when an individual is experiencing the anxiety or distress associated with the obsessions or compulsions. It might be at a point when the distress has minimized and the individual has a moment of clarity. People might make comments like, “This is so stupid” or “I know it is not real but…”.  

OCD creates a vicious cycle of obsessions, distress, compulsions, temporary relief which confirms the fear, only to start the cycle over again. It can be agonizing but individuals should have hope because there is effective treatment.  The greatest and most operative treatment is Exposure and Response Prevention.


Written by | Amy

The International OCD Foundation does amazing work in OCD research, and awareness. Their mission is "to help all individuals with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and related disorders to live full and productive lives. They work to increase access to effective treatment, end the stigma associated with mental health issues, and foster a community for those affected by OCD and the professionals who treat them." 

If you ever need information about OCD and treatment go to for the most to date information. They have information for professionals treating OCD, parents, people with OCD, and anyone interested in learning more. One of my favorites is their recommended book list

I highly recommend checking them out and learning more about OCD and the resources around you. 


Ryan's Story

Written by | Amy

The International OCD Foundation has a great blog on their website. They highlight new research, upcoming events, treatment, guest writers and more. Some of my favorites are guest writers who share their own experience with OCD and treatment. I recently ran into Ryan's Story, a real, down to earth, and inspiring sharing of the ups and downs experienced when suffering with OCD. 

A lot of times OCD or anxiety tells us that the intrusive thoughts are bad, we should keep them quiet, and hide our pain from the people in our life. Don't let the OCD monster suck you into this!! Share what you are going through and let your support system help you. Educate the world around us about OCD and help others get the help they need. At The OCD and Anxiety Treatment Center our clients have the opportunity to build friendships with others who experience similar hardships, and support from astaff that cares deeply for each person that comes in to the program. 

The challenge today is to be vulnerable. Talk to someone and share what you are going through or write about your experiences in the comments and share with us and our readers. -- You can do it! (imagine me doing a "you can do it" dance) 

At the TOATC we give our clients validation instead of reassurance and accommodation. Validation acknowledges the emotions a person is going through where accommodation feeds OCD. 

Learning how to give reassurance instead of accommodating a family member with OCD can be difficult and confusing. Our lovely therapist Kate Rogers Ph.D. created a wonderful cheat sheet for all those in need of some help with this transition.

Remember you can show your family member or yourself love without reassurance or accommodation.