Which Techniques Help Patients With Ocd Manage their Symptoms?


    Which Techniques Help Patients With Ocd Manage their Symptoms?

    In the intricate realm of mental health care, we've gathered insights from top professionals on managing OCD. From a Psychiatrist's advice on addressing triggers and relieving anxiety to a Founder's perspective on applying Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, here are four effective techniques shared by mental health experts.

    • Address Triggers and Relieve Anxiety
    • Utilize Strength-Based CBT
    • Combine IFS with Acceptance Therapy
    • Apply Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy

    Address Triggers and Relieve Anxiety

    It's important to find and address any triggers of obsessions, as well as to find methods to relieve anxiety related to the compulsions, which varies for everyone. For some, it means accepting and being okay with uncertainty. Others find it helpful to let thoughts come and go and not to dwell on them. For others, keeping so busy that one does not have time to dwell on obsessions and compulsions is helpful. And for others, exercise is helpful.

    Aarti Jerath
    Aarti JerathPsychiatrist, Miami Counseling Center

    Utilize Strength-Based CBT

    I often used Strength-Based CBT to manage patients' symptoms. Strength-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an effective approach to treating OCD. It focuses on empowering individuals by recognizing and utilizing their existing strengths and resources to overcome challenges. The therapist works with the client to identify their personal strengths, values, and resources, such as perseverance, creativity, compassion, or a strong sense of humor.

    These strengths may not seem immediately relevant to OCD, but they can be powerful tools in managing the disorder. By directing these strengths inward, the client can be kinder and more understanding towards themselves when struggling with OCD symptoms, reducing self-blame and increasing self-efficacy.

    Dr. Jameca Woody Cooper
    Dr. Jameca Woody CooperBoard certified Counseling Psychologist and Criminal Psychology consultant, Emergence Psychological Services/Dr. Jameca/

    Combine IFS with Acceptance Therapy

    I know Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is considered the gold standard in the field for treating clients with OCD. The problem I have run into with that method is that I keep getting clients requesting something different. "I've done ERP," they say, "and it helped. It just didn't get deep enough. It didn't get to the root of the problem." I love hearing this. I mean, I am not happy it didn't work 100% for them, but I am happy to hear about their readiness to try something new because that is what I have to offer.

    I have had the most success helping those with OCD by treating them with Internal Family Systems (IFS) with a sprinkling of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, with and without values-based exposures. When you think about it, IFS is an imaginative exposure technique. Yes, I believe parts are real, and the internal work is real, AND it's happening in the imagination just like an imaginal exposure would. What makes it more effective is it's rooted in the very real memories, body sensations, thoughts, and feelings the client is having in real-time. They are not trying to force anything. It's more organic and less manufactured than ERP.

    Furthermore, the second half of ERP is "Response Prevention." IFS is so well suited to this because the goal of parts work is not to get rid of parts or get rid of symptoms per se but to be curious about them. Acceptance and curiosity drive an experience with symptoms that allow clients to see themselves and their behavior in a new way, which often leads to a reduction in symptoms or a complete change of behavior. In my experience, treatment with IFS becomes less about "managing" symptoms like with ERP. Often, ERP can feel like an encounter with an exposure and a waiting game with bated breath to get through a period of time without a compulsion.

    Instead, IFS therapy for OCD is more about accepting obsessions, and being curious about them, letting them be, and as a result, gaining insight into what they're trying to do for the system. And the work doesn't stop there. Beyond insight, there is much more to healing in IFS, anchoring the client in their true self and helping them make sense of their parts and symptoms so they can have more clarity and confidence in their world.

    Amanda Averbeck
    Amanda AverbeckMarriage and Family Therapist Associate, Authentically Rooted Counseling

    Apply Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy

    Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) has proven effective for patients with OCD. I once treated a patient who struggled with intrusive thoughts that led to repeated checking behaviors. By incorporating mindfulness techniques, we focused on teaching the patient to observe their thoughts without judgment and to stay present. This approach helped the patient detach from their intrusive thoughts and decreased the frequency and intensity of their compulsions, providing them with tools to manage their symptoms more effectively.

    Sarah Jeffries
    Sarah JeffriesFounder, Mental Health First Aid Course