The national OCD charity, run by and for people with lived experience of OCD
The purpose of this page is to empower those seeking private treatment for OCD to choose wisely, through signposting private treatment pathways that are appropriate and to well-trained health professionals with appropriate qualifications and experience.
This page offers guidance on choosing the right private therapist and therapy and written to empower you to make informed choices before parting with large amounts of money.
We primarily, although not exclusively, base our treatment recommendations on the best NHS evidence we have access to and also from service-user feedback across our various platforms, with service-user feedback being especially helpful and relevant where lesser known treatments or private therapists are used. For that reason, the treatment we recommend to overcome OCD is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), a form of talking therapy that includes Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).
When someone seeks a private CBT therapist, in our experience they will be looking for one of two things:
- A good local therapist and/or
- An OCD specialist.
So how do you access a private CBT therapist?
Without word of mouth, the starting point to search for a therapist who is trained in CBT in your local area is the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP) .
OCD-UK primarily recommend using therapists accredited with the BABCP, which is the lead organisation in the UK for CBT therapists, and should not be confused with the counselling body, the BACP (or their member status MBACP).
The BABCP maintain standards for practitioners of Behavioural & Cognitive Psychotherapy, and have minimum criteria for members to become accredited. BABCP accreditation is the minimum benchmark we use right now when seeking private CBT therapists. The BABCP have a useful website with a searchable register of accredited therapists that you can search by region.
Therapists need to meet strict criteria to become accredited by the BABCP. These include being a member of a specified core profession, following minimum training standards, and having a sustained commitment to the theory and practice of cognitive and behavioural therapies. This ensures that all accredited CBT therapists have achieved a high level of competence in cognitive and behavioural methods, which has also been independently verified.
When visiting therapy websites, it’s important to not confuse being a member of the BABCP with being an accredited member, when seeking a CBT therapist we should always look for someone who is an accredited member of the BABCP. Don’t assume someone is an accredited member because it says they are on their website, do your own research and check their name against the BABCP register, which allows you to search for accredited therapists by surname. We have had cases of individuals claiming to be accredited with the BABCP, when in fact they weren’t!
When you search the BABCP register, simply select your region from the ‘Geographical Search’ drop down menu and then click search. You will then be presented with a list of names, showing their locations and accreditation dates. You can then click against each name for their full contact information. A recently accredited date does not indicate any less experience, it just means they have only recently chosen to become accredited with the BABCP.
Now here’s the key point when seeking a CBT therapist to treat OCD. Prices will vary, but so will their OCD treatment skill levels, so a cheap therapist may not be the best option.
Unfortunately, for us BABCP accreditation is not a qualification of excellence in treating OCD, so you will have to do your own homework to ascertain if they’re the right therapist to help and treat you. To do this you may have to contact several therapists individually and probe them a little about their knowledge of OCD. We have created some potential questions you could ask below.
When choosing a therapist, especially if paying to go private, it really is important to ask relevant questions to allow you to gauge if your therapist is suitably qualified to be treating you. Remember, this is your hard earned money, so don’t be afraid to quiz them over the phone before giving them your money. If they don’t want to answer your questions, then don’t give them your money!
A good therapist will not mind giving you five minutes of their time to ask these questions and, in fact, any reluctance to answer these questions should in itself be enough to make you question if they are the right person for you.
You don’t need to ask all of these questions, these are simply examples of questions you could ask. Whilst these questions don’t necessarily guarantee you will find an OCD specialist, it should allow you to filter out those whose OCD knowledge is perhaps not where you need it to be.
The therapist should answer ‘yes’ to the following generic questions:
- Have you treated OCD before?
- Will we set out a specific CBT treatment plan collaboratively, specific to my problems?
- Will treatment goals be set collaboratively?
- Do you use a technique called ‘graded exposure’?
- Do you set practical exercises or ‘homework’ for me and help me understand these exercises? *
- Do you provide both cognitive and behavioural treatment (i..e full CBT), rather than just behavioural (or cognitive) treatment?
You could also ask some generic questions about OCD, or specific to your own OCD, to gauge if they recognise some of the terminology used, for example:
- Do you know what intrusive thoughts are?
- Do you know what the term ‘Pure O’ means? Are there compulsions with Pure O?
Since some of these terms are not medical terms, not knowing them should not necessarily discount them from being your therapist. Recognition of these terms simply offers a little confidence they understand some aspects of OCD.
There are of course OCD specialists that have years of experience working at the NHS national treatment clinics that now work privately (full or part time), therapists that are published including the likes of Dr E Forrester, Dr L Callaghan, Dr B Stobie, Prof D Veale.
Whichever therapist you choose, you should also ask about cost. OCD is a complex illness, so it’s important to choose the right therapist to help you overcome OCD, rather than a therapist that is a little bit cheaper and a little closer to where we live. Choosing the right therapist can in the long-run, prove more cost effective even if it means paying £20 a month more and travelling an hour further.
It will always be difficult to say how many treatment sessions we will need, but a good benchmark is about 10-20 hours (one hour a week), and if by session 10 (10 hours of therapy) you’re not seeing any progress at all, you should be asking serious questions if the therapy is working. Don’t be afraid to find a different therapist if you come to that conclusion. We discuss what happens if therapy is not working elsewhere in this section.
Some people have stayed with the same private therapist for a year or longer because they like the therapist and feel they can talk. Whilst of course that is important, it’s worth remembering the reason we first went to therapy was to overcome OCD, so we really need an effective therapist! So certainly if you’re still with the same therapist after several months of treatment you really need to review if you’re making progress.
What problems do people face when looking for private therapy?
Unqualified or unsuitable practitioners
With a myriad of anxiety and OCD treatments available, many people have sometimes been tempted by the offer of quick fix cures for OCD, most of which are simply time and money wasters offered by people with sometimes no medical or clinical qualifications or experience at all. Sadly, anybody can call themselves a ‘therapist’, so it’s imperative to check credentials and qualifications, don’t be fooled by the fancy letters after a therapist’s name.
There are many official sounding counselling and therapy bodies, but not all check the credentials of their members, so do your research and never be afraid to ask questions. Don’t believe us? Then what if we told you journalists once registered George the cat with several regulatory bodies for hypnotherapists! You can read the full story on the BBC News website.
As mentioned above, it’s important not to confuse the BABCP (the body for CBT therapists) with the BACP (a counselling body). It’s not unusual to see therapist websites include the logos of official sounding bodies, but don’t assume they’re significant. This image shows various logos taken off two therapy websites offering treatment for OCD, whilst looking impressive, they’re somewhat irrelevant. Always do your own research to understand what such regularity bodies logos mean, and check the name of the individual therapist against the BABCP register of accredited therapists.
Other therapies and claims of special unique methods to treat anxiety and OCD
Type ‘anxiety or OCD cure’ or other such phrases into Google and you will be shown a glut of results promising immediate fast results, for anything from £20 to £2000. These methods are usually named after the creator, who may or may not be an ex-sufferer and will usually have absolutely no medical qualifications at all (anyone can call themselves a counsellor). They’re touted to be an anxiety cure for all anxiety problems, including OCD, despite the fact there is absolutely no evidence or respected anxiety specialist backing up these claims.
Those same Google searches will also list various other commercial OCD treatment services, often run by former sufferers claiming to offer amazing treatment. It is important not to allow yourself to be persuaded by these websites, many of which look highly professional and glossy with lots of testimonials from recovered sufferers – they are selling a service and therefore will not be providing independent reviews!
Please don’t assume that just because someone is an ex-sufferer, they are qualified to be a therapist to treat other people and charge you vast sums of money. So always, always check the professional background and clinical training of the therapist, and if they’re not accredited with the BABCP use extreme caution when parting with money.
Sometimes some of these treatment method websites and clinics also claim to be NHS approved or meeting NICE criteria. In the past we have seen examples of this, where the author’s own GP had recommended the treatment method to another client, and consequently was then being used by the author to support claims of ‘NHS approved’. Again, it is important to take these claims with a pinch of salt, and remember if these services were in fact fully NHS approved, then they would be recommended by leading NHS anxiety and OCD specialists and by charities like OCD-UK.
So what happens if therapy is not working?
The therapeutic relationship plays a key factor in the success of a treatment – you and your therapist should be working and setting goals together and applying exercises as a team. However, even the most excellent of partnerships will sometimes slow down, and even hit the proverbial brick wall. We discuss what happens if therapy is not working elsewhere in this section.
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