Anyone who has attended an Annual OCD Conference can tell you how extraordinary it is. In addition to providing a top-notch clearinghouse for useful cutting-edge information, the IOCDF creates a sense of unity by promoting the easy mixing of researchers, clinicians, sufferers, and their family members. This co-mingling creates a whole much greater than the sum of its parts.
I recently came to appreciate the healing power of community and connection in my professional work.
I’m a psychologist, practicing in the San Francisco area, who has specialized in the treatment of OCD for 20 years. About 18 months ago I began conducting an exposure-based group.
The group has turned out to be a lot more than a time-saving and cost-effective way of helping individuals do their all-important exposure homework. To be sure, a synergy develops from a shared sense that we’re all in this together, and we have to encourage one another to do the hard thing, in order to get better. Beyond this, however, it’s proved a powerful agent in reducing shame and isolation. Some members have wept when, for the first time in their lives, they experienced empathy and support from peers who really “get it.”
Similarly, sufferers who attend the IOCDF’s Annual OCD Conference — many of whom live in shame, isolation, hopelessness, and private torment — often feel they are coming home to a place they’ve never been before.
Unfortunately, though the organization does its best to make the Conference affordable, there are many sufferers who would love to attend, but can’t, due to financial constraints. The IOCDF offers a scholarship fund, but the requests were so numerous this year, that the available money was all disbursed within a week.
I decided I was in a position to offer scholarships to those in the greater San Francisco area who could not afford the registration fee, but who could attend because the event was local. I got the word out through local listservs and the demand far exceeded my expectations.
Many of the emails I received from applicants were heart-rending.
A mother described the misery of her son who struggles to do his schoolwork and whose social life is crippled because of OCD. A senior, a former physician, detailed how he had to abandon his practice years ago because OCD made seeing patients impossible, and how his life has gone downhill since. A middle-aged woman spoke of the profound humiliation she feels about the state of her house and how she is painfully estranged from her family as a result. A young man emailed that he was in agony because his wife could no longer bear living with the demands of his OCD and was on the verge of leaving him and taking their child with her.
Recipients of the scholarships were extremely grateful. They looked forward to learning ways to manage their symptoms and reduce the negative impact their OCD had on those around them. Individuals with hoarding disorder said they would take what they learned and teach it to those in support groups they attend.
All this was extremely gratifying. If you’re looking for a great way to help individuals with OCD and related disorders, you might contribute to the IOCDF Conference Scholarship Fund: https://iocdf.org/conference-scholarship-fund/
Considering how very much the Conference provides in so many ways, you can give a whole lot for relatively little.