The International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) specifies that the recommended and most effective treatment for OCD is a type of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). ERP is an evidence-based, specialized treatment for OCD that focuses on patients directly confronting stimuli that trigger their obsessional thinking and subsequent unwanted internal experiences while simultaneously resisting efforts to control or eliminate those experiences. ERP focuses on learning how to cope with intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. ERP therapy is fundamentally different from more traditional talk therapy, which typically focuses on patients’ past experiences in relation to their current problems, whereas, in ERP, the patients confront their obsessive thoughts repeatedly in an effort to become accustomed to their obsessions and no longer feel the urge to engage in compulsions. Seeking certain forms of talk therapy can make OCD symptoms worse, not better.
While ERP is the established gold standard for treatment of OCD, unfortunately very few therapists are trained to do ERP or know how to treat OCD. The general scarcity of mental health professionals with adequate training and experience in ERP makes it very difficult for OCD sufferers to find and access ERP treatment. IOCDF estimated that it can take up to 14 to 17 years from the onset of symptoms, to getting an appropriate diagnosis and treatment for OCD. As stated, this is largely due to lack of training in health professionals as well as difficulty finding therapists due to geographical barriers. Access to ERP trained therapists is compounded by the already profound shortage of mental health professionals in smaller rural areas; for example, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than half of U.S. counties have no mental health professionals at all, let alone ERP trained therapists.
When patients do access and obtain ERP treatment with a trained mental health professional, the treatment can be life changing in terms of alleviating often debilitating symptoms of OCD. See the IOCDF website for additional details