One of the most important first steps to take in your journey to tame OCD and reclaim your life is to find a qualified OCD therapist. After I finally learned I had OCD and that there was something called “behavior therapy” that I needed to do to get better, I thought the road to taking back my life was going to be simple and straightforward:
…in my mind, all I had to do was pick a psychologist and explain that I had OCD, and he or she would tell me the magic “behavior therapy” things I needed to do to get better. As I got into my car to head the short distance home … I marveled at how easy it had been to find a therapist. I’d called XcelleNet’s employee assistance program and said I needed to see someone who had evening hours, who was covered by my insurance, and whose office wasn’t too far from where I lived. After all, how hard could it possibly be to treat OCD?” From Is Fred in the Refrigerator?: Taming OCD and Reclaiming My Life (pp. 106-107)
Harder than you might think, as it turned out, especially if you aren’t getting exposure and response prevention therapy, the evidence-based therapy for OCD! In fact, this chapter of my memoir is titled “Fueling the Fire” because that’s what happened when I used the criteria above to pick a therapist—I got the wrong therapy, and it fueled the fire of my OCD, making things worse, not better.*
One of the reasons I wrote Fred was to help people get the correct treatment much faster than I did, so in this blog post, I’m sharing the steps I recommend to help you find an ERP therapist.
1. Read “How to Find the Right Therapist” on the International OCD Foundation website.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to visit and read this page! It gives an excellent overview of what you’re looking for in a therapist, the questions to ask, and the answers you want to hear.
2. Interview potential therapists.
On the IOCDF webpage, they recommend: “It is important to interview therapists to find out if they know how to do exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy well.” In the U.S., we’re often assigned primary care physicians by our insurance companies, as if all doctors were somehow interchangeable. As a result, I think we can sometimes see healthcare providers as identical cogs in a machine, providing identical services and quality of care. But unfortunately, that’s not often the case. You’ve probably not clicked with every doctor you’ve seen and the same will be true for therapists. Therefore, it is critical that you don’t skip this interviewing step!
Many therapists will talk with you for 15-20 minutes on the phone for no charge to see if you both think it’s a good match, but for the final one or two therapists you’re considering, I recommend doing an initial session with the therapist so that you can:
- share what you’ve been experiencing in detail
- allow the therapist to ask questions and clarify their understanding of your presenting issues
- allow you to ask the questions the IOCDF recommends as well as any additional questions you might have
- identify whether you like the therapist, feel comfortable talking with them, and based on your interactions with them, feel like they can help you.
3. But remember, there’s no perfect therapist
Therapists are not interchangeable, so you want to find one that’s a good match for you. However, don’t get caught in the OCD trap of trying to find the perfect therapist, because this person does not exist. OCD can keep you from ever starting ERP therapy if it can make you believe that there’s a better therapist out there—you just have to find them. This is a smart strategy on OCD’s part, because if you don’t pursue therapy then your OCD has a much better chance of continuing to run your life. So find a therapist who’s a good match—someone you can envision yourself teaming up with to go after your OCD—but don’t fall for OCD’s self-serving lie that you need someone who is perfect.
I hope you will take the opportunity to find a qualified ERP therapist to help you on your journey, especially now that many therapists see clients online. OCD therapists can provide validation, knowledge, encouragement, and accountability (to name just a few of the benefits of OCD therapy) so go to IOCDF.org and start reaching out to therapists today, so that you can learn to tame OCD and reclaim your life!
*To learn more about why non-ERP therapy fueled the fire of my OCD (so that you can avoid this in your therapy journey!), read Chapter 7 of Is Fred in the Refrigerator?: Taming OCD and Reclaiming My Life. Click here to purchase a copy.
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My blogs are not a replacement for therapy, and I encourage all readers who have obsessive compulsive disorder to find a competent ERP therapist. See the IOCDF treatment provider database for a provider near you. And never give up hope, because you can tame OCD and reclaim your life!
Photo credit © Can Stock Photo / 4774344sean
You’ve said Reid Wilson helped you more than any other therapist. Correct? He does not describe himself as an ERP therapist. I’m puzzled!
Yes, Reid is a cognitive therapist, and I wrapped his cognitive approach around my ERP practice: I want this anxiety, I can handle it, bring it on, etc. His approach made me feel empowered and make the ERP so much easier to do and I think more effective as well. To learn more about how I used Reid’s approach in my OCD therapy and why it formed such a crucial foundation for my recovery, see Chapters 11 and 12 of Is Fred in the Refrigerator? Taming OCD and Reclaiming My Life. For Reid’s thoughts on how I used his approach, please see the Afterword he wrote for Fred. I hope that helps!