Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is by far the most effective treatment for OCD, with numerous scientific research studies backing up CBT for OCD. CBT is a brief treatment designed to teach people different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to challenging situations. With OCD, CBT specifically helps people feel less anxious or fearful, without having obsessive thoughts and without acting compulsively. One type of therapy called exposure and response prevention, is especially helpful in reducing compulsive behaviors in OCD. Follow this link to a chart comparing the effectiveness of CBT to other treatments for OCD.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for OCD usually lasts between 16 and 20 sessions, and typically involves some combination of the following interventions:
Cognitive Restructuring: Cognitive restructuring is a treatment that involves learning to recognize unhealthy thought patterns, and replacing them with more helpful ways of thinking about things. With OCD, cognitive restructuring is used specifically to reduce fear-inducing assumptions about obsessions or compulsions.
Exposure with Response Prevention: Exposure is a systematic method for confronting situations that trigger anxiety. The first step involves creation of a hierarchy of anxiety-provoking situations, arranged from least distressing to most distressing. Treatment begins by tackling the least distressing situation, and then moving on to the next situation once the previous one no longer produces anxiety. Over three decades of research supports the effectiveness of systematic exposure, and it is by far one of the most effective psychological treatments in existence.
Mindfulness Training: Mindfulness refers to being in-touch with one’s present situation, rather than being caught-up in thoughts about the situation. It is a technique used in OCD to help people get unhooked from overwhelming false assumptions about obsessions, and to reconnect to the present moment.