Finding an OCD Specialist

What DO you look for in an OCD specialist? Look at the therapists’ websites or call and ask the following questions: 

  1. Do you have specialized training in OCD? If so, please tell me about it.
    • Right answer: An unqualified, enthusiastic YES! 
      • Specialized training might include: 
        • A year-long (or longer) practicum, internship, or post-doctoral fellowship with an emphasis on OCD
        • Successful completion of the Behavior Therapy Training Institute (BTTI) through the International OCD Foundation (there is both a general BTTI and a pediatric BTTI)
        • Completion of multi-day workshops or a series of workshops with reputable institutions such as University of Pennsylvania or Harvard University/Massachusetts General Hospital
    • Wrong answer: “I learned about it as part of one class in graduate school” or “I have attended some continuing education seminars about OCD”
  2. Do you provide Exposure and Response Prevention or ERP treatment? 
    • Right answer: An unqualified, enthusiastic YES! 
      • The provider may also say something like, “I also incorporate Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and inhibitory learning models and I work with family accommodation [or another evidence-based treatment/principle for OCD] into treatment.” 
      • This can be a very good sign of a more experienced and established OCD specialist…but watch out for the provider who does “a little bit of everything” (see “Wrong Answer,” below). ERP is the core of treatment for any true OCD specialist whose work is based in science.
    • Wrong answers:
      • “No”
      • The “eclectic,” does-it-all therapist: “Sure, I do that as well as art therapy and psychoanalysis and attachment-based methods as well as…”
      • If you aren’t sure if the methods they are describing are evidence-based for OCD, look them up! If you are getting this information over the phone, don’t be shy about asking them to repeat or spell out what they are referring to so that you can write it down and look it up. If it is not something you can find anything about on the IOCDF’s website and/or the website of one of the members of the IOCDF Scientific Advisory Board, be wary. Very wary.
  3. How do you stay abreast of the current research and treatment for OCD?
    • Right answer: Attending continuing education seminars specific to OCD, attending conferences for specialized organizations such as IOCDF and ADAA
    • Wrong answer: Some version of, “I know it all and don’t need to” or “The field doesn’t really change that much”
  4. What percentage of your clients have OCD? 
    • Right answer: 50% or more
      • More is better; most OCD specialists are overwhelmed with OCD referrals, love treating OCD, and only see non-OCD patients when they want to mix it up or keep other skills fresh. 
      • Even OCD specialists in rural areas can fill their caseloads quickly by offering teletherapy services. If you are a patient in a rural area, look for therapists who offer online services. With the recent launching of PsyPACT, a route to licensure across state lines for psychologists to practice telemedicine, options for online care and access to specialists are expanding rapidly.
    • Wrong answer: “I’ve had a fair amount of OCD patients in my day” or “I almost always have a few at any given time”
  5. Are you an active member of any professional associations?
    • Good answers:
      • Yes, I am a professional member of the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) and/or the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).
      • Also good are memberships in research-oriented organizations that are less focused on OCD such as The Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapists (ABCT) or Association for Psychological Science (APS)
      • Acceptable: any reputable mental health professional organization; membership and activity in some professional organization indicates an interest in ongoing professional development and interest in learning
    • Undesirable answer: No. (This one is not so much a deal breaker. I’m willing to concede that there are good therapists practicing who do not actively participate in professional organizations, but an affirmative answer would be better.)
  6. If the patient is a child/adolescent: does the provider treat children/adolescents?
    • Clearly this needs to be “Yes” if the patient is a child or adolescent
  7. Are you located within 10 miles of the patient? Do you offer telehealth services? Do you offer home-based care?
    1. The answer that are acceptable/unacceptable to these questions largely depend on how far you are willing to drive for care and if you feel you need or are comfortable with telehealth and/or home-based care.
    2. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, virtually all providers now offer a telehealth option. You may still prefer a provider who is closer to home so that, post-pandemic, you have the option of office or home visits.

If you cannot find an in-network provider that meets the above criteria, you have a case to be made with insurance to get them to cover an out-of-network professional at the in-network rate. For more information on this process, please see the “Insurance & OCD” tab.

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