Research Confirms OCD Teletherapy Benefits

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Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy is recognized as one of the most effective therapies for managing the symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Despite its proven efficacy, thousands of patients and clients cannot access ERP therapy for OCD due to impenetrable barriers to accessing in-person therapists. However, therapists can use apps such as the NOCD app for anxiety management to offer ERP for OCD at a distance. By collaborating with a client to provide NOCD therapy on their smartphone, an appropriately trained clinician can use video conferencing equipment to discuss progress and future goals offered by the NOCD app. By combining such 21st Century digital tools with their clinical expertise, clinicians can rival if not improve in-person care when serving the many people who will never see the inside of a therapist’s brick-and-mortar office. 

In a May 2022 study entitled, Online Video Teletherapy Treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Using Exposure and Response Prevention: Clinical Outcomes From a Retrospective Longitudinal Observational Study, researcher Feusner JD and colleagues published evidence that OCD therapy using the NOCD app has the potential to alleviate OCD symptoms and co-morbidities. The study objectives, methods, and findings are summarized below.

Research Objectives and Methods

The research set out to understand the outcomes of Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy (ERP) for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in a sample of 3552 adults over 18 years of age. All had a primary OCD diagnosis and received NOCD teletherapy treatment using the NOCD app. The treatment model included three weeks of twice-weekly live face-to-face video ERP therapy. Over the next six weeks, this was followed by 30-minute weekly brief ERP therapy sessions. The researchers did quarterly longitudinal assessments over a year following the endpoint assessment. 

Benefits of ERP Therapy for OCD

The researchers found that patients using ERP therapy for OCD managed significant improvements, with 43.4% reporting reduced symptoms. According to the Feusner JD and colleagues,

“62.9% (2234/3552) were classified as full responders, and 74.2% (2636/3552) had partial or full responses. Treatment also resulted in improvements in the common comorbid symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress and resulted in a significant improvement in quality of life. Long-term follow-up data at 3-, 6-, 9-, and 12 months post-treatment showed overall maintenance of gains from the initial treatment period.”

This study demonstrates that a single, focused treatment for OCD can improve patients’ lives by reducing multiple disabling and distressing symptoms. The authors point out that OCD teletherapy has the potential to improve both symptoms and co-morbidities in the lives of those diagnosed. The research also explains the benefits of ERP Therapy for OCD in terms of cost and time savings. The study points out the financial benefits of OCD telehealth efficiencies for both health insurers and patients. 

“The time frame of these improvements was less than 12 weeks and less than 11 total therapist hours. This is less than half the total therapist time and less than half of the duration of traditional once-weekly outpatient ERP.”

The study reports that assistance with technology played an essential role in the treatment outcomes and helped the participants reach one another over vast geographical spaces. Assistance from professionals ensured a positive therapeutic response. According to the study authors,

“Teletherapy using video allows people in remote locations to access treatment and to be able to complete, in-session, in vivo exercises in places and situations that are most relevant to, or triggering, their symptoms.”

The Future of OCD Teletherapy 

The research supports the efficacy of OCD teletherapy in reducing symptoms and co-morbidities. Increased use of technologies improves access to NOCD therapy for many people who have access to the internet. It has the potential to save time and offers significant financial benefits for patients and third-party health insurers. See TBHI’s previous article Digital Health Tools Transform Pediatric Telemedicine and Behavioral Care.

What is Telehealth? Basic Technology Orientation for the Busy Practitioner

In this 2.5 hour, basic technology training, you will find a well-organized discussion of relevant basic research along with practical suggestions for making foundational decisions about your digital practice with cloud storage, backups systems, security software such as VPNs, HIPAA compliance and software purchasing, synchronous and asynchronous technologies, and much more.

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