Therapy for Everyone!

I have a wish list of sorts when it comes to dealing with obsessive compulsive disorder. On this post about preventive therapy for OCD, I talk about how great it would be to have programs in place that would nip OCD in the bud.

Another item on my wish list involves teaching loved ones of OCD sufferers how to best assist them. When Dan was first diagnosed with OCD as a teenager, my knowledge of the disorder was limited to what I knew from the media, and that information was marginal at best. At the time, I knew nothing about accommodating or enabling or how sneaky OCD can be. I didn’t know there were things I should or should not do, or ways I should or should not act. I figured this was Dan’s illness, and there wasn’t much, if anything, I could do to help him beat it. It wasn’t until I learned more about the disorder on my own that I started to realize how important it is for those who love someone with OCD to be involved, to know the proper way to respond to the sufferer’s needs and desires. For OCD sufferers living with others, the way their loved ones act toward them can make all the difference in the world in their recovery from the disorder.  I assume parents are involved with therapy more when the sufferer is a young child, but I really feel it is important to involve families and friends of OCD sufferers, no matter what their age.

So why aren’t there more support groups, or training sessions, or “required” visits with therapists for loved ones of OCD sufferers?  Even when Dan spent nine weeks at a world-renowned residential treatment program for OCD, all we got was one sheet of paper that basically said, “Do not enable your loved one with OCD.” We actually lived close enough to this facility to have weekly meetings with Dan and the staff, but they never focused on what we, as his parents, could do to help him.

So we learned on our own, and from Dan. Once he committed to Exposure Response Prevention Therapy, our son would let us know if we were inadvertently enabling him, or behaving in any way that might hinder his progress. I remember him telling me that I should stop driving him everywhere because then he would be forced to get behind the wheel again. That’s the thing; he wanted to get better, and so he helped us to  help him, even though it often meant an increase in his anxiety levels.

I think if we had the opportunity to meet, even a few times, with a therapist who specialized in OCD, we would have had a greater understanding of what was going on with Dan, and would have been in a much better position to help him. Professionals who deal with OCD all the time may need to be reminded that, quite often, loved ones of OCD sufferers know little, or nothing, about the disorder.

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13 Responses to Therapy for Everyone!

  1. Lisa Douglas says:

    Once again, you are right on target! OCD is the most convoluted, confusing, contradictory, counter-intuitive illness imaginable. Having parented a child with severe OCD for almost 9 years now, I feel I am about as knowledgeable as any parent can possibly be, but I am still endlessly baffled by the ways OCD manifests itself. I dedicate a considerable amount of time reading and conversing with OCD sufferers on to further my overall understanding of OCD. I am amazed by the number of sufferers, children and adults alike, who battle their loved ones for understanding almost as much as they battle their own OCD.

    • ocdtalk says:

      Thanks for the comment LIsa. I love your last sentence. Certainly those who suffer from OCD are dealing with enough without having to battle those they love who don’t understand their disorder.

  2. Excellent post! Everyone–OCD sufferers and their loved ones–would be better off with more knowledge and understanding about what helps and what doesn’t.

    My parents did practically nothing to get me help. I remember my mother taking me to the doctor when I was about 10 or 11 and telling him I was waking up crying. Nothing came of it. Nothing more was done.

    Years later, when I brought this up to my mother, she said, “Well, no one knew anything about it then.” That’s not true. This was in the 1970s. It was a known disease. The first person I met with OCD was my age, and she was diagnosed at age 11. My parents dropped the ball. They blamed me, and frankly, I think they were ashamed of me.

    That’s water under the bridge, though I guess you can tell I’m still bitter! I need to work through that!

    I’m glad there’s more help for kids now, and for adults too.

    • ocdtalk says:

      Thanks for sharing, Tina, and though I know it doesn’t make it better, or right, I think the way your parents acted was not uncommon “back then.” Of course that doesn’t help you now, or then, and I can’t even imagine how you felt being treated that way. I’d like to think we’ve come a long way, but I know others still struggle with the lack of understanding of their loved ones. Thanks again for your comment…….it’s sure to help others!

  3. 71 & Sunny says:

    Totally agree with you about this Janet. Both my mom and husband have attended CBT sessions with me. They’ve also read information I’ve given them. These things were however, mostly initiated by me because I wanted to get well. A patient who is especially ill or lacks any insight might not seek this type of help from friends or family. I do think mental health professionals should encourage patients to include others in their recovery. I can think of two reasons why they may not. Perhaps doctors are concerned about confidentiality issues. The other reason is that ultimately we are responsible for doing the work that will improve our health. No one can do it for us. That may account for the attitudes of some doctors. In any case, I’m a fan of including as many trustworthy people in my recovery as possible. Life is hard, I’ll take all the help I can get!

  4. ocdtalk says:

    Thanks for your insight, Sunny. You bring up some valid points that should be considered. As far as confidentiality, the therapist would need to be very clear as to what the OCD sufferer is willing to share with others. And of course, you are so right, that “no one can do it for us,” as far as recovery goes. That was probably one of the hardest things for me to realize, because as a mother, I just wanted to be able to make everything all right for my son. At least learning how to deal with Dan’s OCD made me feel that I was helping a little. As you say, I think we all need whatever help we can get!

  5. The Federal Government promotes the use of parent advocates through their System of Care approach. No parent should attend a meeting about their child within the Child Welfare System, the Mental Health System, the School System, or treatment facilities without a lawyer or a parent advocate and a good parent advocate is best.

    A word of caution about parent and youth advocates. Not all are well trained and often pursue false trails–don’t we all.

    Another word of caution. Many are paid by agencies to advocate for you, but might lose their jobs if oppose the paying system too strongly.

    Those two warnings issued, I am a clinician and when my kids had problems I took a parent advocate with me. A good one is gold.

    NAMI offers support and education to parents as does the Federation of Families.

    I developed a training called Caring for Challenging Children with the help of some parent advocates. Am hoping to publish it as an E-course. The parents loved it as did the lawyers and judges. It was mastery based so if someone was required to take parent training they could show what they had learned to the judges as it involved pre-and post tests.

    Will let all know here when I put it up.


  6. Lisa Douglas says:

    Will Kat please elaborate on her comment, “No parent should attend a meeting about their child within the Child Welfare System, the Mental Health System, the School System, or treatment facilities without a lawyer or a parent advocate…?” I’m not clear about this issue.
    Thank you, Lisa

  7. Rhonda says:

    I totally agree! Our therapist had us meet with him for two sessions before even seeing our son. He asked about family history, child history and seemed to be probing for how motivated we were to help our son get better. Since starting work with our son, our therapist keeps us in the loop and lets us know each week what part we can play. He’s recommended books and gives us handouts. We’re in dialogue about family rituals that are supporting the OCD rituals. It makes a huge difference that he sees us as treatment partners. There are OCD books out there that give pointers on what to ask a therapist in order to see how they will involve the parents.

  8. ocdtalk says:

    Thanks for commenting, Rhonda. You sure sound like you have a great therapist, and I hope your son is doing well. Yes, books and web sites abound as to how to find a good therapist…..thanks again for sharing!

  9. This is a great post, and I am going to keep it in mind for the Canadian OCD Network. In fact, I’m going to forward it right now to the doctor I am working with on starting the COCDN.

  10. ocdtalk says:

    I’m so glad you feel it’s helpful! Thanks for letting me know.

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