How to Find a Good Therapist for OCD?

Ok, you have decided you are finally ready for therapy.  So, how do you find a good therapist?  And when I say “good”, I don’t mean qualified, because most practicing therapists are legally qualified; I’m talking about someone who listens, respects you, has beneficial input and someone with whom you are comfortable with.  It is important that you are comfortable with your therapist because if you don’t have a framework of trust, it’s not going to work.

You can call your insurance company for a list of names, you can seek free or low cost therapy, you can ask your school councilor for referrals, you can google “ocd therapist near….”

Phew!  So, now you have some names, and then you make the calls.  When I called the therapists on my list, I left messages with almost every single one of them.  Many returned my call and when they did, I had a list of questions ready:

  1. Do you have experience treating OCD? If not, then don’t even bother.  Not all therapy is equivalent.  Some types can actually make things worse; so stick with what’s been proven to work.  If they say “no”, you can ask for referrals or advice on how to find one.  This is actually the way I found mine.
  2. Are you accepting new clients? If not, but you really want them, you can wait.  Or move on.
  3. What kind of therapy do you use to treat OCD? i.e. ACT, CBT, EMDR…It is wise to do a little reading on the difference between these types of therapy.  You can always ask the therapist as well.  My therapist asked if I would prefer to go with the ACT approach or the CBT approach.  He explained both and I picked the one that sounded best to me.
  4. What are your rates and do you accept insurance or offer sliding scale?
  5. Ask to setup an orientation or first meeting if you think everything sounds good.  Keep in mind, a first session is most often you discussing your history, filling out a questionnaire and feeling things out.

The first therapist I tried out was awful.  She seemed nice, but when I talked about my history, she made comments that really just pushed my buttons.  I felt judged.  At the end of the session, she gave me some pages from an OCD workbook to do as homework.  I was less than impressed.

I left, not really sure if that was normal or not.  I didn’t like her, I knew that much, but I wasn’t sure if I should give her a few sessions to make sure.  I also wondered if maybe I was trying to get out of therapy subconsciously.  I told the story to my husband and sister and I realized that the more I talked about it, the more it bothered me and I decided not to see her again and to look elsewhere.

I started calling other therapists and I began asking the ones who said they had no experience in treating OCD if they could recommend someone.  One suggested I check with anxiety center in my area and I found a therapy group specifically geared to treat OCD.  I spoke to one on the phone and decided to give him a try.

I had my first session with him and I knew he was going to be the one I wanted to help me.  I felt comfortable and agreed with his philosophies on treatment.  Everything felt “right” and I have been seeing him for a few months now.

The search may be frustrating as it was for me, but when you find a good one, it will be worth it.

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ACT – Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

I was absolutely terrified to begin therapy. O man, was I pulling out every excuse in the book to avoid it. I thought it wouldn’t work, that CBT would be painful with short term results, and that the fear of exploring my mind would be too intense.

In an effort to avoid therapy, and still get some help, I talked to a school counselor about some tricks she might have in terms of coping with stress. I explained about my OCD and she told me simple stress reduction exercises weren’t going to help me and she recommended I try exposure therapy. I told her I saw “Obsessed” on TV and there was no way I was going through that. She responded:

“I think it’s great that there is awareness being brought to OCD, but the shows on TV are so extreme.  The exposures they do are intense and much of the time irresponsible.  In real life therapy situations, things go much slower.  The problem with shows like that is that they make people afraid to seek treatment.”

Over the next few weeks, I decided I was ready and thus began my search for a therapist.  My first therapist was a horrendous bitch and I didn’t give her more than one session.  I found a new one who is compassionate, trustworthy and whom I have good chemistry.

I have been in therapy now for nearly four months. I think it’s helping a lot. I have noticed some pretty cool changes, but I’m not gonna lie; it’s difficult. I have experienced some painful situations, opening doors to my mind I never wanted to, but I am becoming a stronger and happier person.

The therapy I am doing is called “ACT”, short for “Acceptance and Commitment Therapy”. It is similar to CBT in that it incorporates exposures, but the main difference is that instead of trying to control or fight thoughts like in CBT, ACT promotes accepting the thoughts as merely thoughts.  ACT also focuses on helping the individual discover his/her core values and goals about life and ways to take action in achieving those.

I don’t take SSRIs.  The rate of them being effective is pretty low, while the risk of developing side effects is pretty high.  I think it’s awesome that some people have found them to be helpful, but they aren’t right for me.

I know many of us wish there was a pill that cured OCD, that had no side effects and didn’t lose potency or trigger dependency over time.  The truth is that there really aren’t many medications in life that are like that.

Therapy is like exercise.  Everyone wants a magic diet pill, or a 10 minute workout, but the answer is and always will simply be that you gotta do the work.  Yes, it will hurt, but the journey can show you how strong you never thought you could be.

Therapy is a great option and the success rate is impressive.  Maybe give it a shot when you’re ready.

I still have a long way to go, and I will no doubt stumble along the way, but my happiness is worth fighting for and so is yours.

one year update

its been a year since i started this, so here is what im thinking as of now.

i still use pot nightly. it helps me calm down immensely. i use ativan when i travel or when i really am going crazy and that is still effective.

i recently decided to get therapy. i have indicated in my previous post about CBT, that i had little interest in it, but what changed for me was school. i decided to go back to school to become a psychiatric nurse to help others with ocd. i started community college and from the start to the end of the quarter, i got sick. i got a sinus infection, ear infection, yeast infections, staph infection and a cold. perhaps stress had something to do with it. my ocd got out of hand. it occurred to me that there is no way i can help anyone when i cant even take care of myself. i still have no interest in SSRIs, so therapy seemed like it. shrooms helps so i think ill give that a go again, but im further from calm than i thought.

i found a therapist and man, was she a bitch. she laughed at my stories of panic attacks. she triggered my ocd by a surprising amount of commentary. i found another therapist who i trust so far. i really like him. he diagnosed me with severe ocd and moderate-severe general anxiety disorder. he asked if i wanted to do CBT or ACT. i chose ACT.

first session is tomorrow. my dreams have been fucked up this week. i have hope.