Inpatient programs versus residential programs for OCD and other anxiety disorders

There are effective treatments available for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and other anxiety disorders. Majority of people with these disorders benefit greatly from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), especially from Exposure and response prevention. This is true for outpatient therapy, that is the “classical” weekly therapy session for 12 to 20 weeks. Additionally, many also benefit from more consentrated treatment that can be found in Residential Programs and Intensive Treatment Programs.But when outpatient therapy does not help the person adequately or is not available in their city or state for that matter – what kind of treatment is available and effective for those individuals?

Jeff Szymanski, PhD, and Carly Bourne recently published a very informative article about the various treatment options available. Their article was published in the 2013 spring issue of the OCD Newsletter and is titled “The ABCs of OCD Treatment: Navigating the Many levels of Care”. They highlighted and clarified the confusion about levels of care that many of our patients and their families experience and frequently comes up when people seek out information about intensive residential treatment for OCD. Many people confuse those treatment programs with inpatient hospital units, that are usually locked.

Intensive Treatment Programs

The intensive treatment programs offer intensive treatment and are usually unlocked. This is opposite to inpatient units (that are usually locked) and are mainly for short term crisis intervention – usually 7 to 10 days. Thus, inpatient programs are not designed to systematically and meaningfully focus on severe OCD and other anxiety symptoms, that is what specialized OCD residential programs are designed to do.

Residential Programs

Residential programs that specialize in treating OCD and other anxiety disorders have a typical length of stay for 6 to 8 weeks and provide intensive CBT. They usually have up to four hours of daily exposure and response prevention sessions with several CBT focused groups to complement the treatment delivery. The treatment is anchored around a hierarchy of all the major OCD/anxiety triggers that the person struggles with. There are only three programs in the United States that offer this level of care and more information can be found at