How to Find an Intensive OCD Treatment Program

Intensive Treatment for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Patient during psychoanalysis session
Intensive residential treatment programs can be very helpful for those with severe OCD. BSIP/UIG/Getty Images

Although many effective medical and psychological treatments are available for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), not all OCD treatments work for everybody. Unfortunately, for some people, nothing seems to be effective. This is known as treatment-resistant OCD. To combat this, a number of intensive residential and inpatient treatment programs have been developed.

What is an Intensive Treatment Program for OCD?

The main feature of intensive treatment programs is interdisciplinary care that incorporates the joint expertise of physicians, psychologists, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists and other health professionals to design individualized treatment plans aimed at managing OCD symptoms that have proven difficult to treat using standard therapies.

In addition, these programs usually involve staying in the hospital for a specified period of time. While some programs require admission to the hospital for up to three months, other programs may only require admission for a few weeks or even just a weekend. These extended stays allow medications to be adjusted while under expert medical supervision, as well as provide many opportunities to undertake cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). While extended programs may offer the most hope for long term management of OCD, studies have shown that even a 5-day intensive inpatient program can be very helpful for adolescents with OCD. Other studies have found programs as short as 1 to 2 weeks very helpful as well.

Typically, you must have already tried other treatments without success, including outpatient therapy, in order to qualify for admission to an intensive treatment program. People who are admitted to intensive treatment programs often have other diagnoses to deal with as well, such as depression, an eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia, generalized anxiety disorder, or bipolar disorder.

Available Intensive Treatment Programs

There are two types of intensive treatment programs available, inpatient and residential:

Inpatient treatment programs are for people who may be in danger of harming themselves or others and need immediate care. Admission to the hospital for a select period of time helps avert the medical crisis and get the patient on the right track and to the next step of treatment.

 

Residential treatment programs are for people who are not a risk to themselves or others, but have not responded well to typical OCD treatments and need extra help. Residential programs typically take place in a home-like environment where a person stays for a prescribed period of time and receives 24-hour care. The program typically lasts around 60 days but can vary from person to person.

When Is It Time to Look for an Intensive OCD Treatment Program?

If medication and outpatient psychotherapy haven't worked for you or your loved one, and OCD symptoms are taking over your life and making it difficult to function, it might be time to look into an intensive OCD treatment program. Having suicidal thoughts despite treatment should prompt you to consider this option. Unfortunately, suicide among people with OCD is far too common, and addressing issues such as worsening symptoms may be thought of as a medical emergency, not just a problem that is lowering your quality of life.

Intensive treatment may also be considered when comprehensive multidisciplinary care is not readily available. The combination of cognitive behavioral therapy plus medications can be logistically difficult for some children and families due to the lack of therapists trained in the management of OCD or due to geographical or financial barriers.

Residential care in these circumstances allows for rapid and evidence-based delivery of effective care. In the pediatric setting, studies have found that short (1 to 2 weeks) intensive and evidence-based residential therapy followed by e-therapy can have dramatic effects for children coping with OCD.

How do I Find an Intensive OCD Treatment Program?

The International OCD Foundation has compiled a list of intensive OCD treatment programs and organized them by geographic location.

In most cases, a referral from your family doctor or psychiatrist is necessary to be admitted to a program. You may need to talk to your health insurance company to find out if your insurance will cover this treatment and how much of the cost they will cover.

Residents of Canada should note that these intensive OCD treatment programs are often covered by provincial health insurance plans.

Sources:

Farrell, L., Sluis, R., and A. Waters. Intensive Treatment of Pediatric OCD: The Case of Sarah. Journal of Clinical Psychology. 2016. 72(11):1174-1190.

Farrell, L., Oar, E., Waters, A. et al. Brief Intensive CBT for Pediatric OCD with E-Therapy Maintenance. Journal of Anxiety Disorders. 2016. 42:85-94.

Smith, R., Shepard, C., Wiltgen, A., Rufino, K., and J. Fowler. Treatment Outcomes for Inpatients with Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder: An Open Comparison. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2017. 209:273-278.

Veale, D., Naismith, I., Miles, S. et al. Outcome of Intensive Cognitive Behaviour Therapy in a Residential Setting for People with Severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: A Large Open Case Series. Behavioral and Cognitive Psychotherapy. 2016. 44(3):331-46.

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