Getting help for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Getting help for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Getting help for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) 1205 898 Team Mindsum
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Last updated: 4 January 2021

This article covers:

– What types of therapies are involved?

– What types of professionals are involved?

– The journey of recovery from OCD

What types of therapies are involved?

Psychological therapies are important when treating OCD. It can really help the child or young person to recover from OCD. The main therapy for OCD usually involves cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This will be discussed below.

Cognitive behavioural therapy
CBT is a type of talk therapy that focuses on how we think and act and how this affects how we feel. There is strong research evidence to support the use of CBT for the treatment of OCD.

The idea behind CBT for OCD is to target the unhelpful thoughts and behaviours that keep the OCD going. The child or young person will learn to confront the uncomfortable thoughts and feelings until they are no longer a problem.

CBT for OCD usually involves a behavioural treatment, known as exposure and response prevention (ERP). Sometimes ERP is referred to as a treatment on its own. ERP is where the person learns to tolerate the intense discomfort of anxiety without reacting as normal. This can sound very daunting, but this treatment is well-known as an effective way to treat OCD.

When working with children or young people, the therapist might have parents/carers involved in the process. Parents might be asked to assist with different tasks outside of the therapy sessions.

What types of professionals are involved?

There are different professionals that may or may not be involved throughout the treatment process of OCD for children and young people. These might include counsellors, psychotherapists, doctors/psychiatrist and social workers. These terms might be confusing, but the main difference is in the training that each of these professionals have received. 

In the UK, there is not much of a distinction made between counsellor or psychotherapist. Both of these professionals provide therapy. However, there are some slight differences between these two professional terms. These are outlined below.

Counsellors: Compared to psychotherapists, counsellors tend to have had a shorter training and they help people deal with their issues on a more short-term basis. There may be school-based counsellors available that children and young people can approach at their own school, if they feel they need support with their difficulties. Here at Mindsum, we have counsellors that are available to provide support.

Psychotherapists: Psychotherapy training tends to be longer. Psychotherapists can also give counselling but their approach to talk therapy is more in-depth. They explore the history and causes of certain behaviours and emotional issues. The psychotherapist will then treat OCD in this specialized way. Here at Mindsum, we have psychotherapists that are available to provide support.

It doesn’t mean that one professional is better than the other. All professionals in this field go through intensive training before they begin to practice. Also, many counsellors seek additional training throughout their careers.

There are also doctors and psychiatrists that can be involved in the treatment of OCD for children and young people. There are more obvious differences between these two professional terms.

Doctors: These are professionals that are trained in medicine. This will likely be the family GP, who might find it necessary to prescribe certain medications that might help them to cope with OCD, especially if the OCD is severe.

Psychiatrists: These are professionals that are also trained in medicine. However, they also specialized in the field of psychiatry. So they are able to provide consultation and medication for a wide range of mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, psychosis, bipolar affective disorder and so on.

Social workers: Workers trained in protecting vulnerable individuals might also be involved with the child or young person. Social workers might provide support or make arrangements for the appropriate care of the child or young person.

The journey of recovery from OCD

The journey of recovery from OCD can look different for each child or young person. It also depends on the severity of the disorder. But there are some things that are expected when going through therapy for OCD.

This is an important phase, where the therapist will get a feel of what is going on. The therapist will identify the severity of the disorder along with other important background information. At this stage, the therapist will need to ask many questions. This will help to create a full picture of what is going on and to know what type of treatment will be most helpful. 

Therapy sessions
These sessions will take place with a time and regularity that suits the child or young person and their parents. An important aspect of the therapy session is the relationship that the counsellor or psychotherapist will build with the child or young person. This will create a safe space that will allow the child or young person to confront the feelings of discomfort that forms part of OCD. The sessions might include activities such as talking, role-playing, exposure practice, completing worksheets, games and feedback.

This can be an important part of treatment for OCD. This is because OCD usually affects everyday situations in the child or young person’s life. So, homework tasks will really help the child or young person to practice what they learned in therapy. This will help them to develop a sense of achievement and mastery over the OCD.

Progress and setbacks
When having treatment for OCD, there will be progress and there may be setbacks. For example, a child might not complete an exposure exercise because the feelings of anxiety may be too overwhelming. It is important not to feel discouraged when this happens, as these types of setbacks can be quite normal when dealing with OCD. These situations provide opportunities to discover new ways to move forward together with the therapist.

Ending therapy
The therapist will eventually prepare the child or young person and their parents for the end of therapy. This is a very important phase, because it is vital for the child or young person to become confident in coping with OCD without relying too much on the professional. The end of therapy will take place once the child or young person has made a lot of progress or has completely recovered from OCD. The child or young person will leave therapy with many skills that they can use without the help of the therapist.

Follow up
There might be an agreement with the therapist to have a follow-up meeting. This is to check how the child or young person is coping. If they are doing well, there will be no need for more support. But if they continue to have challenges with OCD or any other issues, this will be an opportunity to have extra support. 

List of useful resources

Obsessive-compulsive disorder
To read our information on OCD, you can click here to access the link.

 Treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder
To read the general information on the treatment for OCD, you can visit the OCD Action website. Click here to access the link. 

Introduction to counselling and psychotherapy
The British Association for the Counselling Professions (BACP) have a useful document on different aspects of therapy. To read more, you can click here to access the link.

Click here to get free advice from our experts

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