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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Counseling

OCD Treatment in Milwaukee

What is OCD?

OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) affects over six million Americans, and it's more common than you might think. OCD affects 1 in 50 people, and if you have been diagnosed with the disorder, our OCD therapists can help.

If you suffer from this disorder, you are constantly bombarded by unwanted thoughts or images that cause significant distress in your daily lives. OCD can impact your quality of life and significantly impact your relationships with loved ones.

OCD can happen at any age but most commonly appears during late teens through early adulthood due to its ability to affect specific regions responsible for generating emotions like happiness/joyfulness (amygdala).

ocd counseling washing hands

Who does OCD affect?

OCD is a disorder that can affect anyone and occurs when a person gets caught in a cycle of unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images, or urges that trigger intensely distressing feelings. Compulsions are the behaviors an individual engages in to get rid of the obsessions and decrease their distress. Everyone has experienced obsessive thoughts and behaviors, but most of us can let them go easier, and they don't impact our lives.

A sample of some common obsessions is as follows: 

  • fear of contamination (germs, diseases, dirt, etc.), 
  • losing control (acting impulsively, harm to others, blurting things out, horrific images), 
  • harm (causing a fire, running over someone, causing an accident)
  • perfectionism (exactness, losing things, forgetting important details, needing to remember everything)

Common compulsive behaviors are as follows:

  • Washing and cleaning (handwashing, showering, bathing, routine, grooming, cleaning of household)
  • Checking (doors are locked, windows, homework, to see if something terrible happened, checking texts, reassurance from others)
  • Repeating (rereading, rewriting, tapping, in and out of doors, stairs, body movements, touching things, doing tasks in sets of three, or even/odd.

Once again, the above examples are common, but most clients have unique OCD behaviors that can be very disturbing and embarrassing to discuss and admit. Once you have a better understanding of what thoughts or behaviors are OCD, it often gives one a sense of relief.

ocd counseling people holding each other

Why do people suffer from OCD?

Why people suffer from OCD is not entirely understood, but most research points to a problem in communication between the front of our brains and deeper structures in the brain. These areas use transmitters or messengers called serotonin. OCD also runs in the family, so genetics often play a role in whether one suffers from this disorder.

How is OCD treated? What are the steps in getting treated?

The good news is that OCD is a disorder that has extensive research in treatment protocols, and significant advances have taken place in the last 30 years. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, exposure-response therapy, and medications have yielded highly effective results. Progress is often seen relatively quickly. Medications are not always needed. Clients can learn a whole host of skills and methods to take control of this disorder. A prevalent technique is exposure response therapy. The client works in tandem with the therapist to create exercises to confront these individual obsessive thoughts and behaviors and systematically eliminate them. A simple assessment is often given at the beginning of treatment to determine the severity and type of OCD a client is experiencing. In Short, OCD is very treatable.

What happens in OCD Therapy?

You will be asked to do homework in CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and ERT (exposure-response therapy). Research indicates people have good results with psychotherapy if they are highly motivated and willing to put in the work. {1.} 

What is Exposure Response Therapy (ERT)?

Exposure Response therapy is a type of psychotherapy that has been proven effective for treating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In this treatment, people with OCD symptoms are gradually exposed to their anxieties. You are asked not to do what usually helps ease the distress/anxiety, such as rituals or excessive cleaning (compulsions). The goal here is to break the habit loop by slowly tolerating the anxiety related to the obsession without any relief from rituals (compulsions) being performed.

ocd woman silhouette

Cognitive therapy for OCD

Cognitive therapy can help you understand that your brain is sending error messages. Our OCD therapists will teach you how to recognize distorted thoughts and respond to them in new ways. This will help you control your obsessions and compulsions. We all have strange and disturbing thoughts sometimes. You are not alone in this. Some people quickly dismiss these distressing thoughts (e.g., "That's a silly thing to think"); others believe that thoughts are always important and may have a more difficult time letting these thoughts pass. However, research shows that believing that negative thoughts are always significant and attempting not to have "bad" thoughts actually produces the opposite effect. Our OCD therapist will help you discern which thoughts matter and which ones to let go of or challenge.

What are the Benefits of Counseling for OCD?

The goal of this treatment is to help you become unstuck from the symptoms of OCD.  After treatment (and during it), you will understand the symptoms and how OCD traps you. Most importantly, how to break free from that trap. Finally, there is a way out! You will feel more in control of your life and be able to enjoy your life fully.

 Set up an appointment today with one of our OCD Therapists in our Milwaukee, WI location.  We also offer virtual counseling for Wisconsin residents.

  1. Ryan RM, Lynch MF, et al. Motivation and Autonomy in Counseling, Psychotherapy, and Behavior Change: A Look at Theory and Practice.  The Counseling Psychologist. 2011;39(2):193–260. doi:10.1177/0011000009359313

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Julie Abdullah, M.S. LPC-IT she/her

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Julie Abdullah, M.S. LPC-IT she/her

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