Treatment for many children usually consists of a combination of medication and cognitive behavioral therapy. Typically, these medicines fall in the class of SSRIs (Selective Seretonin Reuptake Inhibitors), but other medications are used as well, or instead of these, especially if there has not been a therapeutic response to the initial medication trials. Many children are able to utilize therapy without the addition of medication.
Key to success is CBT treatment. But finding a good therapist may not be easy. You want someone who identifies themselves as a CBT therapist, and one that uses ERP as a treatment protocol. Interview your prospective therapist. Ask how many OCD children they have worked with, and how they treated them. If you don't hear ERP and CBT in the answer, or if you hear things like "relaxation training," move onto someone else.
The first stop to finding a good therapist is the national OC Foundation, which has a Web site at www.ocfoundation.org. They have a referral list for the whole country. Most established therapists have a Web site these days, and it is a good thing to check them out and see what they have to say about the clinician.
If your child has OCD, no matter that the symptoms are severe or that it has been going on for a long time- there is a good chance that they, and you, will get significant relief from treatment, and in a relatively short period of time (weeks, not months), especially if they have never been treated before, or have never had CBT treatment before. There is every reason to be extremely hopeful. The key is to find the right therapist, and psychiatrist, if medication is needed.
There are also some Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs) across the country, and a small handful of inpatient hospitals that cater specifically to OCD, though many do not treat children. Again, the www.OCFoundation.org provides information on these resources as well.
Finally, if your child has had a very severe and acute onset of OCD symptoms, and especially if this was preceded by a strep infection, there is the chance that your child has type of OCD triggered by an autoimmune illness. This type of OCD is treated with antibiotics as well as CBT. Check with your physician first.
Allen Weg, Ed.D, is a licensed psychologist, vice president of the New Jersey Obsessive-Compulsive Foundation and has a private practice, Stress and Anxiety Services of New Jersey, Pa., in East Brunswick. He and his associates specialize in the cognitive behavioral treatment of anxiety disorders for children, adolescents and adults. More than three-quarters of the clients seen have a primary diagnosis of OCD.
He is the author of the upcoming book, "OCD and Storytelling: The Use of Metaphor in Treatment," published by Oxford University Press.