Here’s what cognitive-behavioural therapy for OCD involves

February 12, 2024

A strong body of evidence supports cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).  Beyond showing that CBT is effective, studies have also demonstrated that this treatment produces clinically meaningful reductions in both symptoms and diagnoses. When using CBT, practitioners typically begin by presenting children and parents with information about the disorder, including explaining what the treatment will involve. As part of this process, children are often encouraged to give the disorder a “nasty nickname” — to help them resist their symptoms and not blame themselves for having OCD. Children also identify their specific obsessions, compulsions, triggers and avoidance behaviours as part of developing the treatment plan.

To address physical OCD symptoms, children learn specific behavioural strategies such as relaxation and breathing techniques. Children also learn cognitive strategies such as challenging their beliefs about the likelihood of feared outcomes coming true. Children then practise exposure and response prevention, the core component of CBT. This involves children confronting their obsessions while resisting the urge to engage in compulsions. For more information, see Vol. 16, No. 1  of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.