Thought Stopping and Thought Suppression in OCD Treatment & Therapy
“I’ve been doing my best not to think about it, but by trying so hard not to think about it, I can’t stop thinking about it”, said Yankee shortstop Paul Zuvella in 1986 during an 0-for-28 start. The baseball player is right, when we purposely try not to think about something, we often cause those thoughts to feel like they are engraved permanently in our mind.
Try right now not to think of a pink elephant. Really. Look away from your computer, close your eyes and think of anything at all, just not a pink elephant. If you’re like most people, thoughts of the pink elephant will come back even after you’ve wished it away. This is the rebound nature of thought stopping.
For those suffering with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), unwanted, intrusive thoughts are not just annoying like thoughts of the pink elephant. They often fill the individual with horror and can begin to rule a person’s life. Recurrent thoughts can be about swerving the car into oncoming traffic, saying the wrong things in public, forgetting things, dirty hands, being mugged, or sexual thoughts that one deems unacceptable or inappropriate as well as many, many other things. The person with OCD tends to give a great deal of attention to these thoughts and the thought becomes a very big problem.
Some well-meaning, but inadequately trained therapists often think that the way to solve the problem of unwanted thoughts in OCD is to help OCD suffers stop or suppress the thought. There is actually a type of therapy known as “thought stopping” by which the therapist will call out “Stop!” as a therapeutic technique whenever the client with OCD reports having an obsessive thought. The client is taught to do the same during the therapy session and is told to later say it silently whenever the obsessive thought reoccurs. Some therapists even tell their clients to engage in self-punishments whenever the obsessive thought occurs by pinching themselves or snapping rubber bands on their wrists. Unfortunately this method of treatment is sure to fail and the price the individual with OCD pays for this type of therapy is dear. With thought suppression and thought stopping, we can be sure of only one thing: the thoughts will increase and become an even bigger problem. Thought stopping and thought suppression will always backfire.
Therapists who have been trained to effectively treat Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), do not use thought stopping techniques. Instead, they use evidence-based methods that center on confronting unwanted obsessive thoughts with specific steps that are designed to help the individual with OCD experience success in dealing with unwanted thoughts.
If you are interested in learning how to successfully confront unwanted obsessive thoughts, contact The Center for Anxiety & OCD at GroundWork Counseling in Orlando and speak with one of our therapists who provide effective, evidence-based OCD treatment.
Effective OCD Treatment
Many people seeking treatment for OCD are not aware of the many different viewpoints, theoretical approaches and levels of training that influence a therapist’s treatment method. Many individuals who suffer with OCD become frustrated because despite many hours of therapy, as their OCD is not improving. Not every therapist who claims to treat OCD actually knows how to treat it.
Studies have shown that it takes an average of 14-17 years for an individual with OCD to find the right kind of care. Numerous studies have shown that while CBT (specifically ERP) is the best treatment for OCD, yet many therapists have never received in-depth training in CBT for OCD, even though some therapists have been practicing for decades.
It is important to interview your prospective therapist to find out if they are trained to do Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), and where they received their training (visit our list of suggested questions – this will provide you helpful questions to ask a prospective therapist). A positive sign would be membership in the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) or a member of the Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapists (ABCT). Look for therapists who have sought specialized training offered by the IOCDF.
At The Center for Anxiety and OCD at GroundWork Counseling, our two OCD therapists have received highly specialized training for the treatment of OCD from the International OCD Foundation’s renowned Behavior Therapy Training Institute (BTTI), a level of training for the treatment in OCD that is obtained by less than 1% of practicing mental health providers, which includes psychiatrists, doctors, psychologists, mental health counselors and therapists.
Speak With An Orlando OCD Therapist