Important Considerations for OCD Treatment in Children

It’s estimated that about 1-2% of kids struggle with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and OCD is notably the 4th most common psychiatric condition in the United States ( The most common onset age occurs in the late teen years, but OCD can impact younger children as well. While OCD can impact children slightly differently and range in severity, it can also deeply affect the family.  The sooner you recognize and understand these main symptoms, the sooner you can get the best treatment for OCD which is Exposure Response Prevention therapy combined with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Even if your child has already been diagnosed with OCD, understanding the symptoms and best treatment options will help you support your child as they learn to boss back their OCD and regain control of their life.

With that said, let’s take a look at a few things to consider in the treatment of Pediatric Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder so you can feel prepared heading into therapy sessions for your family.

Associated Conditions with OCD

We know, that about 75-80% of the time, OCD often occurs alongside other mental health conditions such as Anxiety, Autism Spectrum, ADHD, and Depression ( Finding a therapist that can not only treat OCD but also successfully support any other needs related to neurodivergence, anxiety, and depression is important to consider. OCD has a tendency to impact several areas of functioning in kids. Kids can come to OCD treatment struggling with academic challenges, low self-esteem, social withdrawal, being victims of bullying, family discord, shame, fear of embarrassment, and often avoiding many situations. It would be ideal, that in addition to the treatment of OCD with ERP therapy, the therapist can help support these other needs that often show up when living with OCD.

Finding a Specialized OCD Therapist

When looking for therapy options for the treatment of OCD for your child, it can feel overwhelming with all the options available online. One specific thing you should look for is someone specialized in providing Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) Therapy. One way to ascertain if they are specialized in the treatment of OCD is to check that they have completed intensive training through the International OCD Foundation. Dr. Gurash has completed the Pediatric BTTI for the treatment of OCD through IOCDF. ERP combined with Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and/or Acceptance & Commitment Therapy is the gold standard treatment approach for OCD and is backed by decades of evidence-based research. ERP Therapy combined with CBT is the single most effective treatment option for OCD with about 80% of children having positive therapy outcomes.

What is ERP Therapy for OCD?

We, clinicians, love acronyms for just about anything in our field, so what does ERP stand for anyway? ERP therapy stands for Exposure and Response Prevention. Simply put, ERP therapy exposes the patient to feared situations and things and teaches a better way to respond so that OCD doesn’t get reinforced and stronger over time. What we do know, is that talk therapy alone can actually make OCD worse, so it’s essential to find a therapist trained in ERP treatment. One thing to note is ERP therapy is collaborative and safe. It can sound scary and hard to intentionally expose your child to their fears in treatment. But we work together to create a hierarchy of steps starting from the least scary all the way to the most feared situation or thing. Over time, your child learns that they can boss back their OCD, and not let it control what actions they take. When done well, your child will become more empowered, OCD will have less of an impact on their and your family’s life, and they will have a more positive outlook on life and feel so much better about themselves and their capabilities. OCD therapy should include a team-focused and collaborative approach to treatment. This means, that the therapist is a team member for your child and family, and the goal should be a supportive, fun, and safe therapy experience.

Family Involvement is Crucial to Treatment Success

OCD not only impacts your child’s life, but it impacts how everyone feels in the family. Your OCD therapist should include family sessions and parent coaching in the treatment approach. As parents, you know your child best, and you are with them way more of the time than your therapist is, who may only see you about 1 hour a week. As a result, you should be coached on how to support your child outside of sessions so you can help your child manage their OCD in the real world. OCD can be really hard on parents who often find themselves in situations where their child’s OCD is winning and taking over everyone’s lives. Your therapist should create a safe space so that you can also feel supported as well in treatment. As a result, finding a therapist who is trained in ERP and family systems is ideal.

You Are Not Alone

Support and help are available. Finding a therapist that can utilize ERP therapy combined with Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, and work with the whole family is crucial for success. Please reach out today for a free 30-minute phone consultation to see if we are a good fit for your child and family.

References: (retrieved March 27, 2023

Be well,

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