If you’re among the 1-2% of American adults with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), you know this complicated mental health disorder can be challenging to manage. When you have OCD, you struggle with obsessions (impulses, thoughts, or images) that interrupt your daily life.

These obsessions occur on a regular basis for an hour or more per day. Obsessions can be accompanied by compulsions, or actions or thoughts believed to counteract obsessions — at least for a short time.

Our board-certified providers and mental health therapists at Desert Bolt Behavioral in Phoenix, Arizona, specialize in diagnosing and treating OCD. We personalize every OCD treatment plan based on individual symptoms and needs.

An evidence-based and results-focused treatment called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help. To get customized OCD help, schedule an appointment with one of our providers.

In the meantime, take a moment to learn how CBT for OCD works and what you can expect from treatment.

Understanding CBT for OCD

Cognitive behavioral therapy is an approach that focuses on helping patients understand the way behaviors, feelings, and thoughts are interrelated. Central to CBT is the belief that by making a change in one area, you can improve outcomes in another.

With CBT to treat OCD, our providers apply two evidence-based techniques to help improve your behaviors and thoughts: cognitive therapy and exposure and response prevention (ERP), often referred to as exposure therapy.

Cognitive therapy aims to help you understand the meaning you attach to certain experiences. You learn to think about your thoughts critically, using evidence, to come up with a more realistic or accurate interpretation.

Exposure therapy involves gradual exposure to your obsessions but not engaging in the behavior (compulsion) that eases your anxiety related to it. The exposure may be direct (e.g., touching a doorknob) or imagined (e.g., visualizing the obsession).

CBT for OCD helps you help yourself, giving you the ability to pause before reacting to an obsession so that you consider your reaction.

In other words, rather than trying to stop intrusive thoughts, CBT for OCD helps you respond differently to them by challenging the patterns of thought that create the compulsive behaviors.

What to expect from CBT for OCD

While everyone’s treatment plan is customized based on their needs, most CBT for OCD begins with a deep dive into your obsessions and compulsions, describing them in detail and arranging them in order from easiest to manage to most distressing.

We then generally begin with the least distressing obsession with a task designed to expose you to it. For example, if you have an obsession about germs accompanied by a washing compulsion, we may ask you to shake hands or touch a publicly used item (e.g., doorknob) without immediately washing your hands.

Over time, you’re exposed to more challenging obsessions and gain more control resisting the compulsion. You start with in-office exposures, then move into real-world exposures. Everyone goes at their own pace, and we don’t force you to do anything.

Since most CBT for OCD sessions are split into exposure and cognitive therapy, the second part of your session involves focusing on recognizing and interpreting thoughts to help you manage your feelings.

Most CBT for OCD patients benefit from meeting with their therapist once a week for 12 weeks  with homework or practice exercises to perform at home between meetings. The average in-office session lasts about an hour.

Get customized OCD treatment

At Desert Bolt Behavioral, we offer customized OCD treatment plans to help you best manage your symptoms. Though each plan is personalized, most of our patients find success with a combination of medications and therapy, including CBT.

Our practice offers different types of evidence-based therapy in addition to CBT. Whether it’s one-on-one with a therapist or in a group setting, all sessions take place with a trained and licensed mental health provider.

We select and manage medications through our professional medication management services to help control OCD-related compulsions and obsessions, monitoring your progress and making adjustments as needed.

Do you still have questions about CBT for OCD or other ways to manage your condition? Get answers by scheduling an appointment online or over the phone today with a provider at Desert Bolt Behavioral in Phoenix, Arizona.

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