I’m going to preface this article with making sure we all know my perspective. I’m a licensed therapist who specializes in treating adults with anxiety disorders and obsessive compulsive disorder. I treat them using exposure-based treatments like Exposure and Response Prevention, or ERP.
Now that we’re done with the disclaimer, let’s get to why I’m writing this.
I fear one of the reasons people don’t seek therapy for their anxiety or OCD is because they have some misconceptions about the entire process. Let’s remove some of those misconceptions, so they’re no longer barriers to getting the help you need.
1. Treatment doesn’t have to last forever.
This is a big one. My goal is to give you the framework and skills you need to go about living your life without me.
2. Doing things differently may be less scary than living with unrelenting worry.
Change is a word that causes people to feel scared. This is understandable. My clients, however, come to me because their anxiety, worry or OCD has made their world small and difficult. Ask yourself, “does the fear of living that way outweigh the fear of change’s unknown?”
3. Treatment should make sense.
Before there can be change, you must understand what’s happening in your experience. I always ensure my clients understand why I’m asking them to do certain things. There’s science behind the techniques.
4. What you’ve been doing makes sense.
If it wasn’t working, you wouldn’t keep doing it. That being said, it may not be the most adaptive way of coping. Therapy isn’t about judging how you’ve been living. It’s about choosing a different response, so you can live a different way.
5. Treatment is about playing the long game.
It’s not trading short-term discomfort for long-term recovery. Much of the advice given by people who claim to be an expert on anxiety focuses on short-term relief and elimination of symptoms — a momentary bandage to make the distress stop. What may be more effective long term is a different framework to respond to your anxious thoughts and feelings.
6. You’re not broken.
Your brain isn’t broken. You just need to learn how to operate it. This is important to understand.
7. Interventions only need you.
They can’t be reliant on anything you need to have, bring or buy. We want to eliminate ideas like, “I can cope if I have my journal, coloring book, Ativan, oils, etc.”
8. Not all therapy is created equally.
Make sure you are seeing someone who uses evidence-based treatment to treat your situation… … especially if you have OCD or a mood disorder. Exposure and response prevention is the gold-standard treatment for obsessive compulsive disorder. Ask questions of a potential therapist to assess their training and experience. The International OCD Foundation is a great resource.
9. Change is possible.
Active ingredients include a therapist trained to treat your condition, lots of practice and repetition with work between sessions, willingness to feel a range of uncomfortable emotions and lots of self-compassion for the process. Not only is change possible, but it’s also probable.
10. Recovery is not linear.
Some days we move forward, some backwards. What’s important is we’re moving in a forward direction overall.