Department of Psychiatry

Penn Behavioral Health

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Treatment of OCD at the CTSA

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) has been a specialty at the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety since its founding in 1979. Many of the state-of-the-art treatments for this disorder have been developed at the Center. The CTSA specializes in a cognitive-behavioral treatment for OCD called Exposure and Response Prevention (Ex/RP). Decades of research on Ex/RP have yielded findings that clearly support the high efficacy of Ex/RP in reducing OCD symptom severity and improving the long-term management of these symptoms.

Treatment of OCD with Ex/RP is typically completed in 15-20 individual therapy sessions that are roughly 90 minutes each. Ex/RP emphasizes reducing and eliminating rituals and compulsions while at the same time confronting situations that provoke anxiety and the performance of compulsions. Ex/RP sessions utilize gradual exposure to feared thoughts and situations, while the patient learns to control their compulsive behaviors such as washing and checking.

The CTSA offers several Ex/RP treatment programs for adults, adolescents, and children with OCD:

  • Standard treatment: Twice-weekly sessions over the course of 8-10 weeks.
  • Weekly treatment: For patients with relatively mild OCD, once-weekly sessions over the course of 15-20 weeks.
  • Intensive treatment: For patients from outside the greater Philadelphia area or with severe OCD, daily sessions over the course of 3-4 weeks.

Psychiatric evaluation of the utility of medications (used in addition to Ex/RP or alone) is also available at the CTSA.

Eligibility

Before entering a treatment program at the Center, patients first complete a phone screening interview with one of our intake coordinators. If appropriate, patients then schedule and complete an extensive psychological evaluation with a clinician. Patients are interviewed at length and complete a number of specialized assessment forms to ensure an accurate diagnosis. The information gathered during this evaluation is used to determine if the person has an anxiety or stress problem and which treatment best matches the patient's needs. The results of the evaluation are discussed with the patient and treatment recommendations are offered. If the evaluation indicates that the treatment programs at the Center are appropriate for the person, then arrangements for treatment will be made following the evaluation.


More Information About the CTSA's Intensive Ex/RP Program

The CTSA is the only Center in the Delaware Valley that offers an individualized intensive Exposure and Ritual Prevention Treatment program.

Typically, our intensive Ex/RP program consists of 15 to 20 daily 90-minute sessions, with assigned exercises to be practiced during the rest of the day. The intensive program is designed for those who are not in close physical proximity to the Center, for those with moderate or severe OCD symptoms, or for individuals who have taken time off from work or school to focus on treatment.  If you are beyond daily commuting distance from our clinic (e.g., out-of-state), you may be able to stay with a hosting family at no cost through Hosts for Hospitals


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