OCD and Telemedicine

by stockimages freedigitalphotos.net

by stockimages freedigitalphotos.net

Over three years ago, I wrote a post about Internet-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which reported early promising results using the Internet to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder.

A recent news story expands on this idea and also highlights some important research being conducted. Jonathan Comer, of Florida International University, has been studying the use of telemedicine to treat mental health disorders, specifically OCD. In a nutshell, telemedicine involves the use of electronic media to provide health care services.

I always find these types of studies interesting in regard to OCD because I feel there is a real potential to help people who otherwise might be left by the wayside. As many of us have experienced first-hand, the right treatment for OCD can be difficult to find and access, and can involve a good amount of traveling, or even relocating. That’s assuming we can afford it.

I want to make it clear that we are talking about more than just Skype sessions here. I recommend reading the article, which details the remote therapies which involve the use of the Internet, wireless electronic devices, and video teleconferencing. One study involved teaching parents of young children with OCD how to help their children as well as learn to manage and control their own reactions to the disorder. Sessions involved online games and other interactive activities. Also, video teleconferencing and two-way audio and visual equipment allowed for real-time communication between the therapist and family.  Given the fact that many OCD triggers tend to occur in the home, I think this type of therapy could have a lot of benefits. Another study used webcams, video teleconferencing, and Bluetooth ear devices which could be used to coach parents in real-time as they assist their children in dealing with their OCD. Both studies showed participants had significant improvement in their OCD symptoms.

My guess is this is just the beginning. While in a perfect world there would be a top-notch OCD therapist on every corner (utilizing sliding scale fees or covered by insurance) that is not our current reality. As Dr. Comer says:

There’s a highly discouraging disconnect between research advances in mental health care and what services are actually available in the community for the majority of people affected by mental illness.

So while we might know what needs to be done to help those with OCD and other mental health disorders, this knowledge hasn’t translated enough into proper therapy. Maybe telemedicine can get us that much closer to our goal of quality, affordable treatment that is accessible to all who need it.




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8 Responses to OCD and Telemedicine

  1. Lorre Leon Mendelson says:


    Good morning Janet,

    I have OCD and have been treated for many years wtih ERP, CBT, some medicines and a service dog. Recently I was diagnosed with a fairly new diagnosis, Dopamine Agonist Withdrawal Syndrome or DAWS. Dopamine Agonists (DA) are used for people with Restless Leg Syndrome and Parkinsons. Why am I sending this to you? First, in my research I read that DAs can cause OCD. This is not true for me as I was diagnosed with OCD back in the 90s. However they are dangerous for people with OCD in particular. I have finally gotten to a point where I can write about it and let others know. I’m asking for your assistance. I have written an article I am attaching for you now, on DAWS and how it can effect people with OCD. I’m wondering if you would feel comfortable referring this to your readers. I want this to be all over the internet so people using DAs and people with OCD, medical professionals and others associated with this will know there is support.

    Thank you so much for your consideration.

    Sincerely, Lorre Leon Mendelson

  2. As an OCD Behavioral Therapy specialist, I have been doing phone ERP sessions for many years. I have never met any of these people in person, but they recover just as quickly and successfully as the people I see in the office. I can help people all over the globe (clients have been in western Canada, Peru, and California.)

  3. I agree that this is a new and exciting frontier in the provision of mental health services. We are starting to offer telementalhealth services of our anxiety clinic (www.anxiety-treatments.com) but are encountering two significant obstacles. First is navigating the insurance world for payment. We are just starting to offer telementalhealth services and are just beginning to look into reimbursement. Second, is the issue of providing services across state lines. We are in Oregon and we often get inquiries from other states but are prohibited, at least for now, from providing treatment to clients in other states because we are only licensed in Oregon. Oddly, we are allowed to provide services to clients in other countries – one of my few telemental health clients lived in the Middle East.

    By the way…good work on your blog. I often look forward to your posts.


    Robert W. McLellarn, PhD

    • Hi Dr. McLellarn, Thanks for your kind words, and also for your “insider’s view” of some of the obstacles you are facing using telemedicine. I hope as these therapies become more common, the insurance issues can be ironed out. And that certainly is restrictive, not being able to treat clients in the USA outside of Oregon. It negates one of the benefits of this type of therapy – not needing to be in close proximity to your treatment provider! Thanks again for your thoughts, and I hope to hear from you again.

  4. I’m for telemedicine or traditional, as long as it works. I think telemedicine would be a godsend for someone who lived in a place where there was no mental health help (or OCD specialists) available. It will be interesting as time goes by to see how that kind of help measures up with in-person help. I think much depends on the patient. Some people are comfortable dealing with technology. Some people need that personal contact.

    • I agree with everything you say, Tina. I used to think electronic therapy was just too impersonal, but I’ve changed my mind. In many cases, it seems more personal to me, with a therapist coming into your home! As you say, the bottom line is the results, and the preliminary ones look promising!

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