We all know that there are no guarantees in life. What we do know, however, is that many of the most worthwhile achievements in life require a substantial commitment. Participating in Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) for your OCD is one of them. When you begin CBT, your therapist will be very open and honest with you about the commitment you’ll need to make to be successful in overcoming your symptoms.
At first, the sessions with your therapist will be new, and you may be somewhat anxious. But with careful guidance from your therapist, you should learn the ropes of CBT fairly quickly. In the Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) part of cognitive behavior therapy, you’ll be asked to confront your fears, doubts, disturbing thoughts or urges (exposure). You’ll also be asked to refrain from performing your compulsions, or rituals, at least for a period of time (response prevention). And there’s no sugar-coating it: this will be difficult. But this is the only scientifically-supported method to help you to literally “reprogram” you brain and overcome your OCD symptoms. Your therapist most likely will also use Cognitive Therapy, another component of CBT. With Cognitive Therapy, you’ll learn to identify and modify patterns of thought that cause anxiety, distress or negative behavior.
You will also be given ERP “homework” exercises to do between sessions. It’s very important that you do all your homework and keep track of it, as per your therapist’s instructions. You may have a number of reasons for not doing it: you were too tired, ran out of time, or were too upset. But remember that whenever you don’t do your ERP homework, you’re only delaying your recovery.
Although you will experience anxiety when you participate in CBT, your therapist will teach you coping strategies for dealing with anxiety that you can use throughout treatment. Also remember that when you do CBT, you’ll start with easier ERP exercises and gradually work your way through more difficult exercises. Your therapist will never ask you to do an ERP exercise you’re not ready for.
To mentally prepare for treatment, it’s best to clear your life of as much stress as possible, eat well, get plenty of sleep, and enlist the support of family and friends. If your treatment includes ERP exercises that you need to do in your dorm room, it’s important to tell your roommate so he or she will understand any “strange-looking” behavior.
To be successful at CBT, you need to:
- Attend all of your therapy sessions (don’t give in to the temptation of cancelling sessions!)
- Be completely open and honest with your therapist; nothing is “too terrible” to tell your therapist
- Do your therapy homework between sessions
- Give your therapist feedback about your progress.
- Keep going – even when it’s hard – to achieve the relief you deserve
Hard work? Yes. But worth it? Absolutely! Learning to manage OCD can be challenging, just like reaching many meaningful goals in life. But people who seek the right treatment and stick with it find that the benefits far outweigh the effort. Just imagine what it would feel like to get relief from your OCD symptoms. Holding that vision in your head will remind you that there’s a wonderful reward for all your hard work.