Group Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for OCD

Man listening in group therapy session

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Individual cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is very effective, but it's also very expensive. If you're getting OCD treatment through a hospital or other healthcare setting, you are now very likely to receive group CBT treatment for your OCD symptoms instead of individual therapy in order to cut costs. This should not worry you, research has shown that group therapy can be just as effective as individual therapy.

Although a group setting can initially be intimidating, there are actually many benefits to participating in OCD group therapy. There are also things that you can do to make sure you are getting the most out of group therapy.

Group Therapy Is Effective

The effectiveness of group versus individual CBT for OCD has been the subject of much scientific investigation. Overall, clinical research suggests that group CBT for OCD is just as effective as individual CBT for the treatment of OCD symptoms in both adults and adolescents.

  • One study, for example, found that group behavioral therapy was effective for people with OCD and that people continued to show improvements at three and 12-month follow-ups.
  • Another systematic review looking at previous research from 1993 to 2014 concluded that cognitive-behavioral group therapy led to significant improvements.

Group CBT has also been shown to be effective for anxiety disorders, major depressive disorder, and substance use disorders, many of which occur with OCD.

Advantages

Although the content of group CBT is essentially the same as individual CBT, there are a number of advantages to participating in group therapy, which includes:

  • Increased cost effectiveness: It has been shown that group CBT for OCD is usually much more cost-effective both for the individual and the healthcare provider. If you are not able to afford individual CBT, many psychologists in private practice may be able to offer treatment in a group setting.
  • Access to social support: Much of the suffering associated with OCD stems from the feelings of isolation caused by OCD symptoms. Group therapy allows you the opportunity to see that you are not alone and that others are struggling with similar challenges. Other group members often have great hints and tips for coping with OCD.
  • Increased motivation: Just as it can be difficult to go to the gym by yourself, it can be difficult to undertake therapy for OCD on your own. By receiving therapy in a group setting, you can receive encouragement from others. You may even help inspire others to change. The shared experience of tackling OCD symptoms can be very powerful.

Get the Most Out of Group Therapy

While group therapy has its advantages, it is only as beneficial as the amount of work you put in. Group therapy is not only about sitting back and listening to others (though listening has its benefits as well). Here are some tips for getting the most out of your group therapy.

Speak Up

The vast majority of group facilitators work very hard to create a “safe” environment for clients to share experiences with OCD symptoms, some of which can be very embarrassing or touch on potentially sensitive areas, such as relationships or sexuality.

However, if you are anxious in social situations or speaking in public, it can be tempting to sit back and let others do the talking in a group setting. This is common, especially with an anxiety disorder like OCD. Feel free to start slow, and spend your first session just listening. As you meet more people and feel more comfortable, you may find yourself more willing to speak up. The single best way to get the most out of group CBT is to become an active group member.

Sharing your experiences allows you to get the feedback from others and to have a group of people with life-long experience with OCD helping you to work through challenging situations rather than a single therapist.

Attend Sessions Regularly

It is also very important to attend sessions as consistently as you can. It is very disruptive for a group to have members that pop in and out of the group from week to week. This erodes the trust factor that is built up in the group over time.

Likewise, keeping up with weekly homework assignments helps you get benefits more quickly and demonstrates to others in the group your commitment to treatment. Such commitment is often contagious.

Accept Differences

It can also be helpful to realize that not everyone likes or even gets along with everyone else. Although group facilitators do their best to create good group chemistry, you might encounter someone with a difficult personality or who does not see things the same way you do.

If someone is making it uncomfortable for you to attend the group, speak to the group facilitator privately to see if a solution can be found.

Be Committed to Change

Finally, research shows that the people who have good results with psychotherapy, including group therapy, are those who are highly motivated to change and willing to try and put in the commitment required. Cognitive-behavior therapy requires that you start to take some chances in hopes of getting a better handle on your OCD symptoms.

If you have questions about your readiness to participate in group psychotherapy, talk to your doctor or psychologist.

A Word From Verywell

Group therapy can be an effective treatment option for OCD, but that doesn't mean that it is right for every person or situation. You should always work with your doctor or mental health professional to come up with a treatment plan that works best for your individual needs.

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