How successful is CBT in treating OCD and phobia conditions?
Hello Coach, this is a great question.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a very difficult disorder to live with, and your concerns with contamination related to germs is a common aspect of it. You will be glad to read that there are very good treatments for OCD, and the gold standard for treating OCD is Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).
You specifically asked if cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is successful in treating OCD and phobia conditions, and the answer is yes, because ERP is a type of CBT. There are several therapies that fall under the broad umbrella of cognitive behavioral therapy. Basically, therapies that place an emphasis on addressing our thoughts and implementing behavior change could be classified as CBT. ERP is mostly involved with the behavioral aspects. Unfortunately, talk therapy alone is not usually very successful in treating OCD. Talk therapy may include discussions about your obsessions, or exploration about why you have them, and it may include some behavioral elements, but it does not usually help with the learning and practice element that is necessary to move from having debilitating OCD to having a rich, full, meaningful life. ERP requires the individual to be systematically exposed to whatever is causing the obsessive thoughts or fears. The exposure part of ERP refers to exposing you to whatever the fear obsession is, and the response prevention is discontinuing the compulsive behaviors that you do to feel relief from the obsession. Many people believe that the obsessions are the problem, but it is actually the compulsive behaviors that continue the cycle of OCD. Once you begin to learn that you can be exposed to whatever is causing the fear and you can handle it, the thoughts generally become less intense and sometimes stop. Even if the thoughts are still difficult, you will learn that you can still choose what is important to you and not let OCD make the decision.
There is a lot more information to share about OCD, and you may have more questions now. I suggest finding a counselor who has had specific training in Exposure and Response Prevention. There are counselors on BetterHelp with that training.