Treatment for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)


What is OCD?

Obsessions are intrusive, unwanted thoughts, images, or impulses that trigger distress. Compulsions are specific, often ritualized, behaviors or mental processes (e.g., counting, repeating certain words or phrases) that a person feels compelled to perform in attempt to suppress the obsessions or decrease the distress triggered by obsessions. While compulsions may provide temporary relief, the distress decreases for only a short time before coming back again. This cycle of obsessions and compulsions becomes consuming, taking up increasing amounts of time, energy, and other resources.

For individuals with OCD, symptoms frequently lead to intense feelings of distress (e.g., anxiety, guilt, shame, disgust) and interfere with their ability to function in a variety of settings. OCD begins to control one's life; individuals perceive a lack of control over their own thoughts and feel driven to perform acts that often they would prefer not to do. 


Common Obsessions

Concerns About:

  • Contamination

  • Harm/Aggression

  • Sex/Sexuality

  • Violating Religious Rules (Scrupulosity)

  • Symmetry or Exactness

  • Having Something "Just Right"

Common Compulsions

Excessive and Repetitive:

  • Washing/Cleaning

  • Checking

  • Repeating

  • Reassurance Seeking

  • Ordering/Arranging

  • Counting

Please Note: While these are some common examples of obsessions and compulsions, this is far from a comprehensive list of ways that OCD symptoms can manifest.


How Do You Treat OCD?

Research has shown that the most effective form of therapy for OCD is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). *The same treatment is also known as Exposure and Ritual Prevention (EX/RP), so you may see either term or abbreviation used in various resources on OCD treatment.

Through participation in ERP, individuals are empowered as they learn how to overcome OCD symptoms and regain control over their lives. Components of ERP include:

  • Gaining insight into the mechanisms that underlie and maintain OCD symptoms

  • Monitoring your own obsessions and compulsions

  • Gradually learning how to cope with obsessions and accompanying distress without engaging in compulsions

  • Re-evaluating the accuracy of beliefs about what will happen if you do not perform compulsions

  • Learning how to manage this disorder in order to prevent relapse of symptoms

Research studies have found that on average individuals complete the treatment program in about 17-20 ninety-minute sessions. Duration of treatment may be impacted by length of sessions (50 or 90-minutes each) and is largely dependent on how much time is devoted to exposure homework between sessions.

It is important that ERP be conducted by a mental health professional who has experience working with individuals with OCD and has received specific training in ERP. I received training in ERP through the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety Disorders at the University of Pennsylvania in 2013. Since then, treating individuals with OCD has become one of my specialties.


Recommended Workbook

I recommend that all of my clients participating in ERP purchase Treating Your OCD with Exposure and Response (Ritual) Prevention Therapy: Workbook. This workbook provides step by step guidance through the ERP treatment program, providing summaries of information discussed during therapy sessions and worksheets for recording important information between sessions.


Additional Information about OCD & ERP

Understanding CBT for OCD - The Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania

Exposure Ritual Prevention - Video about ERP from Rogers Behavioral Health System

Understand the Facts: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder - Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)

How is OCD Treated? - International OCD Foundation (IOCDF)


Ready to Get Started?

I have advanced, specialized training in ERP and extensive experience working with individuals with OCD. To learn more about how I can help you work to reduce your OCD symptoms, contact me to schedule a free phone consultation.

During your phone consultation we will discuss why you are seeking counseling, your goals for counseling, and how I may be able to help you work toward these goals. If we don't feel like I am a good match for you, I will be happy to assist you in finding a therapist who may be a better fit for you.

If you decide to schedule an in-person appointment, I will ask you to complete some paperwork for new clients ahead of your first appointment.