A New Patient’s Guide to Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Posted by Phil Cardenas on Sep 17, 2013

Congratulations! You’ve resolved to fight the disruptions of OCD, bringing it to its knees. One of the weapons you’ll likely employ is called Cognitive Behavior Therapy, or CBT. Here’s what CBT is and what you can expect from it.

CBT is a special kind of therapy that uses two proven techniques: Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) and Cognitive Therapy (CT). ERP gradually exposes you to situations that trigger OCD symptoms.   The therapist controls the exposure and helps you learn to respond to those symptoms differently. As the therapist works through controlled exposure to the triggers and the responses, you typically finds that OCD symptoms decrease, becoming milder and less frequent, often to the point that the symptoms can be ignored or even disappear.

While ERP deliberately creates anxiety, the therapist is trained to keep any anxiety at a tolerable level. As you learn to master the anxiety, your fears fade and self-confidence grows. Many patients see noticeable results quite early in the process.

Your therapist will begin by having you make a list of your obsessions and compulsions. Then you rank them in order from least bothersome to the worst. Starting with the less troubling symptoms, you and the therapist work through gradual exposure to the triggers and learn how to avoid obsessive or compulsive reactions to them. In other words, you learn “response prevention” from exposure to the triggers and how to develop new, more productive habits to replace the troublesome ones.

Cognitive Therapy (CT) helps you recognize and understand the false messages your brain sends that cause your distress and negative behavior. As you build recognition, you learn to confront those erroneous messages and respond to them in fresh, positive ways.

CBT is the only form of behavior therapy that is strongly supported by the research community when it comes to treating OCD. It is usually conducted weekly on an outpatient basis with the patient given “homework” exercises to work on between sessions. CBT has proven to have excellent results with thousands of OCD sufferers. Studies show that more than 85% of persons undergoing CBT report significant reduction in symptoms. With proper therapy, people can look forward to replacing the hours that used to be wasted by obsessions and compulsions with more productive and enjoyable activity.

It’s important to note that not all therapists are experienced in using CBT to treat OCD, so choose your therapist carefully. Beyond OCD is dedicated to helping people understand Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and get the treatment they need.

Our web site, BeyondOCD.org, offers in-depth resources for understanding what OCD is and is not. We provide information about coping with OCD personally or living with a person with OCD as well as specific guides for children, teens, and college students. Our Expert Perspectives section has dozens of articles about the latest knowledge in OCD research and the most effective ways to treat it. Don’t forget to visit our blog, either. It has timely articles about the latest news relating to OCD and other topics of interest.

The scientific understanding of OCD and how to treat it has increased exponentially in the past few years. New information is published frequently, and more mental health professionals are becoming actively involved in treatment and outreach.

Beyond OCD wants you to know that OCD can be treated and that relief may be closer than you think. If you want to learn more about OCD, its treatment options, and our many other resources, take a few minutes to explore BeyondOCD.org. We’re here to help you get the information you need to get Beyond OCD.

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