OCD: The Road to RecoveryPosted by Phil Cardenas on Jul 01, 2013
by Janet Singer
When my son Dan was first diagnosed with OCD, his longtime pediatrician recommended he see a therapist. So off Dan went to the most popular adolescent psychologist in town. Dan really liked him and continued to meet with this therapist weekly for four months until he left for college. What we didn’t realize at the time was that this amounted to sixteen sessions of the wrong type of therapy, and Dan’s OCD was now worse than ever. If he hadn’t gone off to college, he would’ve continued indefinitely with the wrong therapist using the wrong therapy.
My son’s story is not unusual. One of the most common roadblocks to recovery for those with OCD is not necessarily lack of treatment, but lack of proper treatment. The frontline treatment for OCD is Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) Therapy, yet amazingly, there are still therapists out there who have never even heard of it. So they treat OCD by using traditional talk therapy, or whatever techniques they think might work. It is still mind boggling to me that this type of mistreatment is so prevalent.
For those of us lucky enough to know that ERP Therapy is what’s needed, the search for an experienced, competent therapist is often difficult and frustrating. There is a shortage of qualified professionals; there are also treatment providers who claim to use ERP Therapy, but don’t really know what they’re doing. Finding the right therapist might not be easy, but it is of the utmost importance for the successful treatment of OCD. I suggest checking out this article to help you get started.
Okay, so let’s say you now are working with a healthcare professional who understands OCD and its proper treatment. There is one thing you absolutely have to do to help your therapist help you: Be honest. I know this is not always an easy thing to do when dealing with OCD, but for ERP Therapy to be successful, it is necessary. While you might feel embarrassed by your particular obsessions and compulsions, I assure you nothing will come as a surprise to a seasoned professional. So no hiding or downplaying of your symptoms or any other aspect of your OCD. And you need to be honest with your therapist about how you are coping with your therapy. Is it too much too soon? Are you doing your homework completely, or just half-heartedly? I’ve written before about those with “recovery apathy,” meaning they don’t commit themselves totally to treatment. If this is a problem for you, you owe it to yourself and your therapist to discuss it, so that you can hopefully work through your particular issues. What you shouldn’t do is say you’re engaging in an hour or two of ERP Therapy daily when you’re really not.
So now you have a good therapist and you are wholly committed to ERP Therapy. It shouldn’t take long (weeks or months maybe, but not years) before you start to notice improvement in your OCD. It’s that quick. But what about all the OCD sufferers we know of who have been in treatment for years and years, with little to no improvement? They might even be worse off now than when they started therapy. If this is the case, something isn’t right, and I’d advise getting another professional opinion. Maybe there are undiagnosed comorbid conditions present? Or maybe there are other issues regarding recovery avoidance? Or maybe your therapist is not a good fit? These are just some of many possible scenarios.
The main point I want to make is that OCD, no matter how severe, is treatable, and it shouldn’t take years for OCD sufferers to notice improvements. If you’ve been suffering for years, it’s time to reexamine your relationship with your therapist, as well as your relationship with your OCD, to get a better understanding of what barriers you might be facing. Maybe it’s time to make some changes. Everyone deserves to live the life they want, not the life OCD dictates. With the right attitude and the right treatment, freedom from OCD might be a lot closer than you’d think.
Janet Singer, an advocate for OCD awareness, is published regularly on various mental health web sites. She explores all topics related to OCD and shares what helped and what hurt in her son Dan’s recovery from this devastating disorder. While there were many lessons learned along the way, Janet feels the most powerful one of all is that there is always hope. She is committed to getting the word out that OCD, no matter how severe, is treatable. You can read more about Dan’s story and follow her personal blog at: www.ocdtalk.wordpress.com. Janet uses a pseudonym to protect her son’s privacy.