Treating OCD and other anxiety disorders with brief, intensive therapy

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Image: Hillary Swift/New York Times

For nearly 20 years [Thomas] Ollendick has been testing briefer, more intensive forms of [cognitive-behavioral therapy] for childhood anxiety disorders and getting results that closely match those of slower versions. His center often has a waiting list for treatments that include a four-day therapy for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and a three-hour intervention for specific phobias (such as fear of flying, heights or dogs). Around the U.S. and Europe, short-course therapies for anxiety disorders have begun to catch on, creating a nascent movement in both adult and child psychology.

The details vary, but the quick treatments have some common features. They generally begin with “psychoeducation,” in which patients learn about their condition.

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A second part usually involves “exposure and response prevention,” in which patients confront in incremental steps whatever triggers their anxiety: perhaps shopping, for agoraphobics, or having dirty hands, for people with OCD. With support from the therapist, they learn to tolerate it and see it as less threatening.

How well do these approaches work? A 2017 meta-analysis by Öst and Ollendick looked at 23 randomized controlled studies and found that “brief, intensive, or concentrated” therapies for childhood anxiety disorders were comparable to standard CBT.

Read full, original post: A Three-Hour Fix for Phobia, a Four-Day Therapy for OCD

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