At the October 2012 annual meeting of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Tara S. Peris, PhD, reported on the preliminary success of PFIT (positive family interaction therapy) when used in conjunction with standard CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy) for those with a primary diagnosis of treatment-resistant pediatric OCD. Families in the study also had an assessment of poor family functioning. I recommend reading more about this study, which also talks about the criteria used to identify dysfunctional families.
All I can say is, “Yay!” If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, then you probably know I am a big proponent of family involvement in therapy. When children have obsessive-compulsive disorder, it is crucial that their parents, indeed their whole families, understand the disorder, and learn the proper ways to interact and respond to the OCD sufferer. When Dan first told me he had OCD, I followed my mother’s instincts, and did whatever I could do reduce his anxiety at the time. I had no idea I was enabling him and contributing to the strength of his disorder, because I had little to no understanding of how OCD operates. I needed to become educated. I have no doubt my entire family would have benefited from PFIT.
In regards to the study, I find it interesting that dysfunctional families were singled out, as I think it would be difficult to find a family who isn’t dysfunctional when dealing with severe OCD. I’ve written about how important it is for health professionals to realize they are dealing with families in a weakened state. Not only were my husband and I confused and distressed by what was happening to our son, we were also terrified. It’s hard not to be dysfunctional when your child spends entire days just laying on the floor, doing absolutely nothing.
I think PFIT is definitely a step in the right direction, but I would like to see it made available to all families and loved ones of those who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder. While this study does not include children with mild to moderate OCD, or families who are not classified as dysfunctional, I believe every family who has a loved one with OCD could benefit from learning how to deal with the disorder, as well as with each other. It sure couldn’t hurt.