Break free from OCD

Have you ever double-checked that the door is locked? Or needed to wash your hands after touching something you think might be contaminated or dirty? Have you ever had a strange or disturbing thought pop into your head? It is common for people to experience intrusive thoughts or perform compulsions at some point in their lives. Typically, people can carry on without giving these experiences a second thought. But for someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), these experiences cause high levels of distress and completing compulsions can significantly interfere with daily activities.

OCD explained

OCD is a form of anxiety that develops when a person repeatedly experiences intrusive, distressing and unwanted thoughts, images or urges (obsessions). These obsessions are distressing and leave people feeling they cannot control or stop the thoughts from occurring.

While people with OCD often realise that their obsessional thoughts are irrational, they believe the only way to relieve their anxiety is to perform compulsive behaviours and rituals to prevent the outcomes that they fear. Compulsive behaviours and rituals reduce anxiety, but the relief is short-lived, leaving OCD sufferers trapped in a cycle of needing to complete rituals to reduce their ongoing distress.

The more the rituals are performed, the more people feel the urge to perform them again the next time they feel anxious or have distressing thoughts. As the frequency of the anxiety builds, rituals become extremely time-consuming and can get in the way of activities like school, hobbies, work, friendships, and family activities.

Learn more about the symptoms (common obsessions, rituals, and compulsions) of OCD.


In clinical trials cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has received substantial empirical support for the treatment of OCD – it is considered the “gold standard” treatment approach. CBT is particularly effective compared to placebo and other psychological therapies, like relaxation training and stress management training.

Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) exercises are an effective form of CBT for OCD. They involve two elements:

  1. Exposure: clients deliberately confront anxiety-provoking thoughts, objects or situations.
  2. Response Prevention: clients modify or stop performing rituals.

Prolonged exposure to anxiety-provoking stimuli gives clients the opportunity to habituate (or get used to) their anxiety. ERP exercises also allow clients to engage in “hypothesis-testing” by confronting their anxiety. In other words, if someone suffering from OCD believes that something bad will happen if they don’t perform ritualistic behaviours, they can test this belief by stopping performing them in a safe and controlled environment.

Over time, successful ERP helps to reduce the expectations of negative consequences, as these consequences fail to occur.

Benefits of group therapy

CBT for OCD can be conducted in both individual and group therapy formats. Both formats are effective in reducing symptoms of OCD, even in severe cases.

There are several advantages of group therapy over individual therapy.

Cost effectiveness:  Group therapy is more cost-effective than individual therapy for OCD.

Social support: Much suffering stems from the feelings of isolation caused by OCD symptoms. Group therapy allows clients to see that they are not alone and that others are struggling with similar challenges. In addition, other group members often have great hints and tips for coping with OCD.

Motivation: Just as it can be difficult to go to the gym by yourself, it can be difficult to undertake CBT for OCD on your own. Other group members provide encouragement and you may even help inspire others to change too. The shared experience of tackling OCD can be a very powerful experience.

New group therapy program

In conjunction with Professor Clare Rees at Curtin University, Lawson Clinical Psychology is excited to offer a group workshops for adults with OCD. The Break Free from OCD group is part of an ongoing research project to improve treatment for the disorder – individuals attending the program have the option of participating in this research.

Each workshop will run for 10 weeks (unless otherwise noted) for two-hours each week,
from 5:30pm to 7:30pm, at our West Perth practice. More information can be found on our group therapy page or by emailing the Group Coordinator.

More information

If you would like to learn more or book an appointment with one of our experienced clinical psychologists, contact our friendly client team by calling 6143 4499 or email via our contact page.

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