It is widely known that effective treatment for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder begins and ends with medication and/or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with Exposure Response Prevention (ERP). This is gold-standard, evidence-based treatment that proves to have the most positive effect on managing OCD symptoms long-term. But, what are some other supplemental tools and resources that may help with maintaining recovery with OCD?
Therapeutically, OCD specialists may use a variety of therapies to supplement ERP. Mindfulness is a great tool used in conjunction with ERP. Learning mindfulness techniques can help after treatment to recognize intrusive thoughts and apply ERP techniques to manage symptoms. Therapists may also implement Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT). This therapy can be used alongside ERP as well and emphasizes mindfulness techniques in helping to manage intrusive thoughts. While mindfulness, ACT, and other therapies may be used in supplementing treatment for OCD, they are not recommended as solely effective treatment strategies or a replacement for ERP. If you are working with a therapist who is not using ERP therapy, you are wasting time, money, and your symptoms may become worse.
Peer support is an beneficial supplementary service that can be used in all stages of treatment and recovery for OCD. Peer specialists are trained in using their lived experience with mental illness to support individuals who are working toward their own recovery. Peer specialists can also be incredibly effective in helping with the emotional turmoil that can accompany OCD. OCD intrusive thoughts can create negative emotions such as shame, guilt, and embarrassment. While an OCD specialist may be focused on symptom management, a peer specialist can help use their lived experience and mutuality with the often debilitating emotions accompanying OCD to support the individual in treatment.
There are also many secondary fears and urgent questions an individual may experience throughout treatment and even afterward. Common fears include, ‘What if I don’t really have OCD?’, ‘What if these obsessions turn out to be true?’, or ‘What if treatment works for everyone but me?’ Peer specialists can relate by using their experience of working through these fears which helps individuals feel less alone and isolated. Having a peer specialist by your side during therapy can ease the fear and uncertainty of the therapy and the negative emotions as you advance toward recovery. If you are looking for a peer specialist, please make sure they are trained and certified through the state in which they are practicing.
Peer support is designed to be the support you need in between seeing therapists, your psychiatrist, and other mental health professionals. Other tools that can help in real-time struggling would be a newly developed app called nOCD. This is a tool designed to give you real-time support with therapy tools and keeping your recovery on track. Having support from peer support as well as being able to keep track of your therapy successes can absolutely expedite recovery and help you feel less alone in your journey.
There are many other supplementary resources that can help individuals while they work toward recovery with OCD. Success stories and memoirs of individuals living and managing OCD are very helpful. Being able to read about someone who has been successful in what you are struggling with can provide motivation and hope that OCD can be overcome. Support groups in your area or online can be very beneficial as long as they are supporting recovery in a way that leaves you hopeful. It is important to do research on who is leading the support groups. Make sure the moderator is an expert in OCD and/or an individual who has been treated successfully with OCD. Support groups that perpetuate symptoms or loss of hope can be damaging to symptom management.
Websites, blogs, workbooks and books can be helpful as well as long as the content is aligned with evidence-based research and expertise in OCD. There are many self-help sites and individuals who will claim they have a program to ‘cure OCD’ or ‘heal OCD’. If these products or services are not using Exposure Response Prevention therapy and/or associated with an expert in the field who practices ERP, be very cautious in purchasing or engaging in such services.
OCD is a chronic mental illness with no cure, however there is absolutely hope that you do not have to suffer alone and treatment is absolutely effective. ERP therapy can help you get your life back from the overwhelming symptoms of OCD. While supplemental self-help strategies are not recommended as a replacement for ERP therapy, they can be incredible tools to fill in the gaps during therapy.
If you are looking for therapist referrals/resources in your area, or if you are in need of peer support, please contact Chrissie Hodges at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consultation/peer support session. Find out more about Chrissie, her work, and her advocacy at www.chrissiehodges.com. For a great app to help supplement your treatment with OCD, please visit nOCD at http://m.treatmyocd.com/chrissie
There is effective treatment for OCD and it is absolutely possible to live a full, productive, and successful life with OCD. There is Hope.
Mental Health Advocate/Speaker; Author “Pure OCD: The Invisible Side of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder”; Peer Support Specialist & Resource Consultant/Treatment for OCD Consulting; CBT/ERP Coach/Effective OCD Treatment; Colorado Suicide Prevention Commissioner; Crisis Intervention Team Presenter/Denver Sheriff & Police Department\