Department of Psychiatry
Penn Behavioral Health

Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety

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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 (Ritual) 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.

The CTSA offers several Ex/RP treatment programs for adults with OCD. In addition, we offer a program for children that is specifically formatted to treat younger patients.

Treatment of OCD with Ex/RP is typically completed in 17 individual therapy sessions that are roughly two hours each. Ex/RP treatment emphasizes a behavioral approach to this disorder that involves exposure therapy and ritual prevention. These sessions involve gradual exposure to one's feared thoughts and situations, while the patient learns to control their compulsive behaviors such as washing and checking.

  • Standard treatment: Most patients complete treatment for their OCD in twice-weekly sessions over the course of 9 weeks.
  • Intensive treatment: For patients from outside the greater Philadelphia area or in very severe cases of OCD, the Center offers the option of intensive treatment completed in daily sessions over approximately three-and-a-half weeks.
  • Weekly treatment: For patients with relatively mild cases of OCD, we might recommend that treatment be conducted in once-per-week sessions.
  • Medication treatments are also available for patients with OCD. These medications may be used in addition to, or instead of, cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Eligibility for the OCD programs is determined through an extensive interview with one of the CTSA's clinicians. A complete evaluation of OCD and related symptoms includes a thorough discussion of treatment options, as well as information about free treatment through research studies and fee-for-service alternatives.

 

Intensive OCD Treatment

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

Typically, an intensive program consists of 15 to 20 double-length daily sessions, with assigned exercises to be practiced during the rest of the day. If deemed necessary, additional home visits are conducted.  The focus of the first sessions is on gathering information, monitoring the symptoms and creating a treatment plan. The focus of the remainder of the sessions is on exposure and ritual prevention, on relapse prevention, and on future planning.  The intensive program is designed for persons who come to Philadelphia from out of town, for persons with moderate or severe OCD symptoms, or for people who have taken time off from work or school to focus on treatment.  Persons who live beyond daily commuting distance from our clinic (e.g., out-of-state) can stay at a hosting family at no cost through Hosts for Hospitals


Treatment of childhood obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

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, including specialty programs tailored to the needs of younger patients.

Treatment programs for children and adolescents with OCD follow the same exposure and ritual prevention approach as our programs for adults. However, the treatments are modified to take into account the developmental status of the child and, where beneficial, parents are encouraged to work actively with the child on therapeutic tasks. Age appropriate metaphors and examples are used to help the child understand the rationale for therapy, and the length and frequency of treatment sessions may be changed to conform to the needs of the child.

Eligibility for this program is determined through an extensive interview with one of the Center’s clinicians. This interview includes a complete evaluation of OCD and related symptoms, and a thorough discussion of treatment options including research studies and fee-for-service alternatives.

 

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