Dr. Simpson explains cognitive behavioral therapy and how this can be beneficial for patients with obsessive compulsive disorder/OCD.
So cognitive behavioral therapy means a lot of different things. There’s one particular form of cognitive behavioral therapy that has been proven effective in the treatment of OCD and that’s called exposure and response prevention, or sometimes called exposure and ritual prevention, and it involves two different procedures. One is, you sit with the patient and you make a hierarchy of the things that they fear the most, and you rank it from no fear at all to the most fear. And then with the therapist, you set up situations where you go and confront those situations in a very specific way. Very gradual, prolonged exposure is what we are looking for.
And you basically move up your hierarchy with your therapist. So once you’ve confronted and mastered one exposure, you move to one that’s a little harder. While you are doing that, you also work with your therapist to stop all of your rituals, your compulsions, and you really need to do both things at the same time.
What we know from studies that have directly compared this therapy to medication is that if you have a skilled therapist and you have OCD and not a lot of other problems, and you can do this therapy, this therapy is as effective, if not more effective, than the best medications that we have.
About Dr. Simpson, M.D., Ph.D.:
Helen Blair Simpson, M.D., Ph.D., an expert on obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), is an associate professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University, New York City, where she directs the Anxiety Disorders Clinic and OCD Research Program at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. She was a member of the work group that developed the first “Practice Guidelines for the Treatment of Patients With OCD” for the American Psychiatric Association.
Through her research, Dr. Simpson is working to trace the brain circuits believed to play a major role in the development of obsessions and compulsions, and she has developed novel approaches to treatment. Her research has been supported by a NARSAD Young Investigator grant.