When I decided to go through with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for my diagnosis of Pure O/OCD, I truly believed that there was no other hope. If this did not work, I would be doomed to live a life bordering on staving off the urge to commit suicide more frequently than I would like to admit. Fortunately, the stars aligned for me when I was seeking out therapy for OCD rather than relying on medication every day.
WAY back in the day—1998, there was definitely not as much information on the internet as there is today, and in fact I had to search for days and days to find qualified OCD specialists and websites that could even explain what CBT was!? I had no idea how important ‘key words’ were then!! However, one day in my awkwardly worded web searches, an article popped up called ‘Thinking the Unthinkable’, (http://www.ocdonline.com/articlephillipson1.php) and I literally screamed out loud as I read it as everyone in the library computer lab gave me evil looks and shushed me from all directions. I couldn’t get enough…I scoured Dr. Phillipson’s website soaking up every single word thinking I had FINALLY found someone that GETS ME!!!!! I knew then I had to contact this man and no matter what the cost financially or emotionally, it was imperative that I become one of his success stories.
And shortly thereafter, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with Dr. Steven Phillipson ensued.
15 years after that therapy, I still use the techniques instilled in me to manage my obsessive thoughts as they arise. I am still so grateful that I took the leap, that I held on to hope, and that I threw myself into the therapy 100% with my full trust in a Doctor who my blind faith in him completely paid off. I owe my life to that man.
I am absolutely a CBT success story. Of course, I am not cured of OCD, but I live a relatively normal life and manage all of my obsessive thoughts and have control over my life whereas at one point in my life, OCD was almost responsible for my death at my own hands. But, just because I feel confident in my experience with CBT does not mean I did not have the SAME doubts and fears that you have or will have if you decide to go through with it. Here were a few of my fears during CBT:
1. Even though Dr. Phillipson has helped many people with the same OCD spike that I have, I believe I am different and he won’t be able to help me;
—-Dr. Phillipson was completely prepared for this fear and in fact, he said that almost everyone he treated had the same fear! While hearing that I was not the only one did not make the fear dissipate, it did confirm that I could trust my therapist and have more confidence that he knows people who have OCD inside and out.
2. What if I go through with the therapy and it doesn’t work? I am afraid that will mean that I do not have OCD and that my obsessions are real!!?
—-As part of CBT, Dr. Phillipson was aware of this fear because I repeated it to him very many times, but he was careful not to reassure me—he needed me to realize that there are always ‘possibilities’ that we can never prove or disprove. Again, I had to just trust him and know that he would probably not treat me if he truly did not believe that I had OCD. Since then, I have learned that MANY people experience this fear as a secondary fear to their OCD. When I am involved in an OCD cycle, this is hard for me to grasp and understand, but it is true and you can take comfort in knowing that professionals are qualified to diagnose you with OCD—-even though OCD may FEEL real, it is NOT real.
3. Dr. Phillipson let me know that the therapy will not make the thoughts go away, but that it will help me to not react. THIS TERRIFIED ME! WHY AM I PAYING MONEY IF THE THOUGHTS AREN’T GOING TO GO AWAY!?!?!??!?!
—-This was the most difficult fear to deal with. Up to this point when I was not on meds, I could not imagine my life without the fear and all of the ruminating and anxiety that went along with it? I WANTED the therapy to make the thoughts GO AWAY! Well, it is hard for us who suffer with OCD to understand this because we are conditioned by our brain to fear the thoughts. The TRUTH is that we have bizarre thoughts all of the time but because they are not accompanied by the anxiety, we do not perceive them as a threat. CBT is designed to transform the obsessions into those petty everyday thoughts that are not charged by our reaction. Once I got through 3-4 exercises and realized that the point was to eliminate the ANXIETY rather than the THOUGHT itself, I began to understand the concept.
Every person’s experience is different with OCD and treatment involves so many different factors. But here is my advice if you are thinking about CBT:
1. Find the right therapist for you: Not every method works for everyone. Dr Phillipson was VERY matter of fact and had little emotional connection to the therapy. This worked for me because I needed someone to take control and not give me any options. It was that tough-love attitude that made me want to succeed. MAKE SURE when you seek out a therapist for OCD that the therapist performs CBT and ERP—otherwise they may not be adept in treating patients with OCD. Interview several OCD Specialists and make sure they are the right fit for you in order to set you up for success.
2. When you begin CBT, GO FOR IT 100%! CBT will work wonders for you if you dive into it head first. You HAVE to be willing to be uncomfortable—to endure the pain—to take every risk possible knowing that the outcome will be beneficial. Many people find tremendous success with CBT when they get to a point that is almost rock bottom…I knew the only thing I had to lose was my life so I thought that I had no other choice. CBT IS NOT FUN AT ALL, BUT IT WORKS IF YOU ARE WILLING TO DO THE HARD WORK!!!!!!!
3. When you find the right therapist and are ready to give 100%, HAVE FAITH IN THE PROCESS!! I know, I know this sounds way easier than it is…but hang on like hell to hope! Research success and graduate stories that are just like your obsession…read books of OCD success stories…reach out to other people who have gone through the treatment and find a mentor. But, most importantly, TRUST IN YOUR THERAPIST! OCD Specialists WANT you to get better…they want you to succeed. Give them 100% and hang on to faith that You will be a success story.
There are many different treatments for OCD….but in my experience and in many other success stories involving OCD, the answer to ‘To CBT or not to CBT’ is
ABSOLUTELY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YOU ARE WORTH IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IT DOES WORK!!!!!!!
Thank you for taking the time to read. Here are some links that may be helpful:
ocdonline.com, theotherocd.com, effectiveocdtreatment.com
Have a fantastic day
Public Speaker/Mental Health Advocate
Radio Host: ‘The Stigma of Mental Illness Radio’