By Alex Bahrawy, MBA, IOCDF Membership & Community Specialist
We are lucky enough to live in a period time in which effective and evidence-based treatment methods for OCD and related disorders exist. Through Exposure & Response Prevention (ERP) therapy, medication, and a combination of both, symptoms for OCD can be reduced so greatly that they no longer have a significant impact on everyday life. Even for treatment-resistant cases of OCD, there exist more intensive options through over 100 intensive clinics and programs listed on the IOCDF website. Not to mention all the researchers working to develop even more effective treatments for OCD, many of which will be discovered thanks to the IOCDF Research Grant Program.
However, just because these wonderful resources exist does not mean every person is able to access them. There are many different barriers to accessing effective treatment, but chief among them is the high cost of therapy, medication, or admittance into an intensive treatment program. Insurance can be helpful in covering the hefty price tag, but it’s not always applicable. Some professionals and programs do not, or are otherwise incapable of, accepting insurance. And even if they do, there’s not always a promise that your insurance company will cover your treatment.
The IOCDF has created several helpful articles regarding insurance coverage, including How to Access and Understand Your Mental Health Benefits and Obtain Referrals, as well as a handout to help you Know Your Rights & Understand Your Coverage.
But what if you don’t have insurance? What low-cost treatment resources are available? Let’s take a minute to review the various low-cost options available to the OCD community, including both treatment and support options:
Low-Cost Treatment Options
A handful of providers who treat OCD are able to offer partial or full scholarships to cover the hefty price of treatment. Scholarships aren’t as common for just traditional outpatient providers, but intensive clinics and programs can frequently have treatment scholarships available depending on the time of year. It’s always worth asking. To view a list of clinics on the IOCDF website that that indicated that they offer scholarships, please click here.
2. Sliding scale payment plans
Similar to scholarships, a sliding scale fee refers to a specific payment plan in which the professional is able to offer a significantly reduced fee for treatment. Often seen as a “pay as you can” plan, a sliding scale can be very helpful when the full cost of sessions is too high. You can search for professionals and clinics that offer a sliding scale payment plan by using the IOCDF Resource Directory.
The first logical step to finding a qualified professional is typically to search for results that are closest to your location. But what if every provider or program in your area is too expensive? In these cases, it can be helpful to utilize options outside your local area. Teletherapy refers to the process of providing treatment either online or by phone and is becoming increasingly more popular. When you’re able to search for professionals outside your immediate area, it opens up many more possibilities for low-cost treatment. You can search for teletherapy providers by using the IOCDF Resource Directory or by visting http://www.ocdonline.com/.
4. Research studies
Research studies are often a great way to access free treatment options. In fact, oftentimes the investigators of the study will actually be compensating you for your time. These studies typically revolve around developing brand new treatments for OCD and related disorders. For a list of ongoing OCD and related disorders research studies, please visit https://iocdf.org/research/research-participants-sought/
5. Student/Trainee therapists
When the cost of seeing a licensed professional is too high, an alternative could be to look into receiving treatment from a student or trainee studying to become an independently licensed treatment provider. Because these individuals are still under supervision, the treatment you receive will be offered at either no cost or a very minimal cost. These trainees work directly under seasoned professionals, so the methods of treatment will still be evidence-based and effective such as Exposure & Response Prevention (ERP) therapy.
You can inquire about student/trainee therapists by contacting a clinic in your area. These programs are typically run in an office, university, or hospital setting and have large staffs of clinicians.
Low-Cost Support/Self-Help Resources
1. Online programs & apps
When therapy is not an option, whether you’re unable to afford it or if you’re waiting to be admitted to a program or for an appointment with a professional, online programs and apps can be a highly beneficial resource. Many of these are designed around symptom management and incorporate aspects of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The OCD Challenge in particular is a free, online program for managing OCD symptoms: www.ocdchallenge.com.
A list of apps for managing OCD can be found on the IOCDF website here as well: https://iocdf.org/ocd-apps/
2. Self-help books
Much like online programs and apps, self-help books are a great alternative when you are either waiting for professional treatment or are otherwise incapable of accessing professional treatment. For a list of relevant OCD and related disorders self-help titles, please visit www.iocdf.org/books.
In immediate and crisis situations, hotlines are a great place to turn to for support and guidance. Sometimes you just find yourself needing an instant helping hand, and a hotline is a great way of getting that critical support. Some days can be harder than others, and when those days happen you’ll always have a place to call.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness runs a support hotline which operates Monday – Friday from 10 AM – 6PM, EST. The hotline can be reached at 1-800-950-6264. Alternatively, NAMI also responds to crisis texts. Text “NAMI” to “741741” for support
4. Support Groups
Support groups, whether professionally or peer led, are helpful resources when you feel as though you need that extra level of understanding. Support groups can be a very personal experience when you can make some much-needed connections with fellow members of the OCD community. All the support groups listed in the IOCDF Resource Directory are free of charge, or have a small suggested donation to help the group continue to run.
5. Online Communities
Online communities are becoming an increasingly more popular place to connect with others living with OCD. Similar to support groups, most online communities for OCD are free to use.
The IOCDF has created our very own online platform called My OCD Community. We encourage all members of our community to join and participate in the various conversations that are posted weekly: https://healthunlocked.com/my-ocd