After Residential Treatment

by digitalart freedigitalphotos.net

by digitalart freedigitalphotos.net

My son Dan spent nine weeks at a residential treatment program for OCD. When my husband and I decided it was time for him to come home, I was ambivalent to say the least. As I said in my book:

On one hand I was thrilled he’d be home in five days, and on the other hand I was terrified he’d be home in five days.

Many people who attend residential treatment programs for OCD are there because their OCD has become so unbearable that they feel they have no other choice. They are severely debilitated. As I’ve said many times before, Dan entered the residential program in the worst condition of his life. But he wasn’t the only one affected; our whole family also suffered.

Though my husband and I had our share of complaints about the program Dan was attending, there is no question the staff there knew how to treat OCD. In nine weeks Dan went from a young man who could barely function to someone who, for the most part, was able to manage his OCD and was eager to return to his life – the one he had before OCD took over.

But it’s so scary. And not only for the person with OCD. As family members we vividly remember the horror of what life was like before residential treatment. Yes, we can see our loved ones have made strides in treatment, and they do seem so much better, and sure they’ve gone “off-campus” to do all sorts of exposures, and it’s clear they now understand their OCD better than ever….

BUT…what if when they come out of their somewhat sheltered environment and into the real world, they end up back where they started? That is the thought that kept me up nights as we counted the days to Dan’s termination. Perhaps this concern was particularly relevant to us as we decided to remove Dan from the program against the recommendations of his team there. Still, I believe this is a common fear, not only for loved ones, but for the person with OCD who is leaving a safe, supportive environment and venturing back out into the world.

Of course there are things we can, and should, do to maximize the chance of a smooth transition. We can have good health-care providers in place, ready to continue ERP therapy. We can be vigilant about not enabling our loved ones and be sure to keep the lines of communication open. We can remain optimistic and confident that OCD can be beaten, even when dealing with some regression. We can maintain our senses of humor. And we can trust that those who have just gone through this intensive treatment will be better equipped than ever to handle whatever comes their way.

But still….what if?

It didn’t take me long to realize I needed to accept, and even embrace, the uncertainty of the situation, and of life. Sound familiar? This is exactly what Dan learned to do as part of his therapy – those with OCD struggle with the need for certainty, which is simply not attainable.

In Dan’s case, there were indeed many ups and downs once he left residential treatment, but we, like most people, were able to put aside the “what ifs” and deal with everything that came our way, until our son finally beat OCD. If our family could do it, yours can too.

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12 Responses to After Residential Treatment

  1. Nancy says:

    You capture how I felt as a parent. I was SOOO glad to leave the hotel room where we had stayed crammed together for the intensive outpatient treatment. We were going back to her wedding (!) the month after we got back. Yet I felt great trepidation. I didn’t think she’d truly embraced ERP. But in the end we had to go. I finally reconciled to the imperfection out there (ok more or or less). I knew we gave her the chance at a treatment and felt that we had “launched” her as she entered her new life. We had given her the knowledge she needed to fight OCD. That’s as far as we could go with her. After that it it is her life.

    • Thank you for sharing, Nancy, and you are so right. There is only so much we can do as parents. That’s quite a transition, from intensive outpatient treatment to marriage! I hope your daughter is doing well!

  2. aviets says:

    Wow, what you describe really resonates with me. Most people don’t realize that caregivers/loved ones of people with mental illnesses suffer significant trauma in their own right. My husband’s depression, anxiety, panic, and ADHD have been constant companions almost all of our 30 years together, and they’ve caused me unspeakable stress, trust issues, and, quite honestly, clear symptoms of PTSD. Just wanted you to know I understand pretty well how you were feeling during this time.

    • Thanks for your comment, and I know you understand. In some ways, I think it is harder when you are dealing with a spouse’s illness. I had my spouse for support when our son was doing so poorly! I appreciate your sharing!

  3. Jane Garner says:

    When our son came home after 8 weeks in residential treatment, it was left up to us (his parents) to make sure he continued his therapy. Unfortunately, there was no follow-up because there was no professional with the proper training in our area. Naturally, he floundered as we sought the proper professional help. We tried several psychologists who had no clue how to treat someone with severe OCD. He ended up in two different psychiatric wards, became suicidal because of hopelessness and helplessness, and finally was put on medication that settled his brain but not his mind. He also experienced physical problems which further added to his frustration. Finally, almost by accident, I found a psychologist who did long distance counseling; who has proved to be a life-saver and a mind-saver. Unfortunately, our insurance does not cover his sessions, but we have made the financial sacrifice as parents do, and our son is doing much better. Why does
    treatment for OCD have to be so hit-and-miss? Where is the financial support for families dealing with mental illness? Why do some private organizations and hospitals demand self-pay for mental health treatment? The health insurance companies and the government need to get on board on what is needed to take care of those in our society not only suffering from OCD but all forms of mental illness as well.

    • Thank yo so much for sharing, Jane, and believe me, I share your frustration. Your comment touches upon everything that needs fixing when it comes to treating OCD and other brain disorders. Unfortunately I think stories such as yours are more common than not. I’m glad your son finally got the help he needed and hope he is doing well.

    • Brenda says:

      Jane I know your pain, we are going through the exact same thing you are, our son came back home with “No” way to get help too!! They sent him home with severe ocd even though his therapist at the residential place he was at, wanted him to stay longer—I still don’t understand what really happened there. Maybe it was the insurance?? In any case I was wondering who is helping your son, and if there is any way I can contact him.
      My frustration with all this, is that the psychologists all say they can help him, but after several expensive cash only visits, it is clear that they can’t help him!!
      I agree with you totally, if we have to pay for insurance, then I feel all Doctors should have to accept insurance, even if they are called psychologists!! It is really frustrating to find out that the very thing you need for your loved one isn’t covered by the very expensive insurance you have to have!!

      • Hi Brenda, I’m sorry you are going through this frustration as well. I agree there are many things wrong with the system we have. I wish you and your son the best and hope you can find the right help for him.

  4. 71 & Sunny says:

    I was just going to comment on the importance of follow up care when I read Jane’s comment above. I have heard that same story from several people. Having supportive family (like Jane) can really make a huge difference, especially when good help is not easily found in a local setting. Bravo to you Jane for going so far to help your boy.

  5. Nina Berg says:

    Thank you. I live in Norway and er have no residential treatments here – my 15 year old daugther har to stay at an institution where they have little OCD knowledge, she stays there monday-friday and has to come home during the weekend. She can not eat because of her OCD and her weight is going down, only 34 kg now, and i fear for here life, but there is nothing more i can do. She can not stay home, she gets aggressive, spits and can not take care of herself. It really helped me reading your blog – gave me hope – i have to continue looking for the right treatments…

    • Hi Nina, I am so sorry to hear of your daughter’s situation. I would suggest contacting the International OCD Foundation (link is on my sidebar) and perhaps they can at least put you in touch with some therapists in Norway who employ ERP therapy. Your daughter needs a therapist who is an OCD specialist…..if there are none in Norway perhaps sessions could be arranged virtually with someone in the US. Also you might want to consider some of the helpful books out there about OCD. There are resources listed in my book and on the IOCDF web site as well.
      Please do not lose hope for your daughter as OCD is treatable. I’ve always said one of the hardest parts about OCD is finding the right treatment. Good luck as you move forward and please feel free to keep in touch.

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