What to Look For in a Therapist for OCD

It’s unfortunate, but many mental health practitioners are not familiar with the symptoms and treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder. It may be confused with other problems (such as impulse control problems, phobias or psychosis) and therefore not be successfully treated.

Find a therapist who specializes in OCD

If you have OCD, ideally you will want to find a therapist who specializes in treating OCD. If your child has OCD, you will want a therapist who specializes in childhood OCD, which has its own set of challenges. (You can check with the OC Foundation to see if there are experts in your area.)

The first line of defense for OCD is cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). If you can’t find anyone who specializes in the disorder, look for a behavior therapist (such as one who treats anxiety) that can translate CBT skills to working with OCD.

Find a therapist you feel comfortable with

The relationship you have with your therapist will greatly affect your satisfaction with treatment. Pay attention to how you feel, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Find a therapist who understands the biological roots of OCD

Even if the therapist claims expertise with OCD, if he or she starts talking about OCD as being rooted in early developmental junctures (such as toilet training), go somewhere else for help. Also, if the therapist wants to resolve OCD by working on your self-esteem, this isn’t the one for you. Clearly, the therapist has not kept up with the research!

If your child has OCD, find a therapist who…

  • Knows to ask for the telltale signs of OCD (to be able to distinguish a common childhood fear from OCD).
  • Knows how to handle OCD-related developmental, academic and family matters.
  • Is willing to collaborate with other professionals on the team, such as school and other mental health providers
  • Is approachable and easy to contact
  • Can help you and your child understand the complexities of OCD and how to deal with daily situations in a practical manner

(Recommendations from Freeing Your Child From Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)

Recommended Reading

For an excellent guide to understanding and dealing with OCD in children and additional information to help you choose a therapist, get Freeing Your Child from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder by Dr. Tamar E. Chansky.

What to Do When Your Child Has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Strategies and Solutions by Aureen Pinto Wagner, Ph.D. contains excellent parenting tips and lots of good information about medication and OCD.