Finding a therapist who can diagnose and effectively treat OCD is a challenge to many patients and families.
Tips for Interviewing Therapists
Some therapists are better at treating OCD than others. It is important to interview therapists to find out if they know how to do Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy well. Their responses to your questions are a good guide to what you want to know about a new therapist.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- You have a perfect right to ask questions. This is your life and health!
- If he or she is guarded, withholds information, or becomes angry at your requests for information you should probably look elsewhere.
- If the therapist appreciates how important a decision this is for you and is open friendly and knowledgeable you may have a gem of a therapist!
- Your relationship with the therapist is important. Especially since they will be asking you to do things that you find uncomfortable.
What Should I Ask?
The following checklist can help guide your search for the right therapist. The answers to most of these questions are available on the individual listings in our Treatment Provider search engine but it never hurts to ask a therapist yourself:
“What techniques do you use to treat OCD?”
If the therapist is vague or does not mention cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) or Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), use caution.
“Do you use Exposure and Response Prevention to treat OCD?”
Be cautious of therapists who say they use CBT but won’t be more specific.
“What is your training and background in treating OCD?”
If they say they went to a CBT psychology graduate program or did a post-doctoral fellowship in CBT, it is a good sign. Another positive is if a therapist says they are a member of the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) or the Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapists (ABCT). Also look for therapists who say they have attended specialized workshops or trainings offered by the IOCDF like our Behavior Therapy Training Institute (BTTI) or Annual Conference.
“How much of your practice currently involves anxiety disorders?”
“Do you feel that you have been effective in your treatment of OCD?”
“What is your attitude towards medicine in the treatment of OCD?”
If they are negative about medicine this is a bad sign. Medicine is anffective treatment for OCD.
“Are you willing to leave your office if needed to do behavior therapy?”
It is sometimes necessary to go out of the office to do effective ERP.
Are There More Intensive Therapy Options Available?
Yes If you or a loved one has tried traditional outpatient therapy and would like to try a more intensive level of care there are options. The following lists therapy options from least intensive to most intensive:
Patients see a therapist for individual sessions as often as recommended by their therapist, generally one or two times a week for 45-50 minutes.
Patients attend several groups and one individual session per day, several days per week.
Patients attend treatment during the day at a mental health treatment center usually from 9am – 5pm, up to five days a week.
Same as the Day Program, but patients attend the treatment at a mental health hospital.
Patients are treated while living voluntarily in an unlocked mental health treatment center or hospital. (Examples MGH/McLean OCD Institute Roger Memorial Hospital’s OCD Residential Program Houston’s OCD Residential Program).
This is the highest level of care for a mental health condition. Treatment is provided on a locked unit in a mental health hospital on a voluntary, or sometimes involuntary, basis. Patients are admitted into this level of care if they are unable to care for themselves, or are a danger to themselves or others. The goals of inpatient treatment are to stabilize the patient, which generally takes several days to a week, and then transition the patient to a lower level of care.
The IOCDF keeps a database of intensive treatment centers across the United States. Click here to look for a program in your area.
This page has been adapted from “How to Choose a Behavior Therapist” by Michael Jenike, MD