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How to Find an OCD Specialist for Therapy

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Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a challenging disorder, but one thing that may feel as challenging as having OCD is finding an OCD specialist therapist. This is especially true if you don’t live near a major city. Good OCD therapists can be far and few between.

Thankfully, with an increase in telehealth services, there are more options, but it can still be confusing and overwhelming to find a therapist. I’m working on getting back into exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy for OCD, so I thought I’d give my tips for navigating the process. (For context, this is what worked for me in the United States. There may be better advice for other countries.)

1. Search the IOCDF directory.

The International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) hosts an online directory of therapists, support groups and treatment programs with training or specialization in OCD. You plug in your zip code and can adjust filters, such as the therapist’s gender or the ages they serve.

I can’t promise everyone on that list has kept their profile updated, but it’s a good place to start finding names. You can then go to their website or Google their name to find more information about their practice. This is a good time to check if they accept your health insurance, if you have insurance.

Alternative: An alternate option is to do the opposite. You can search through your health insurance’s directory of therapists and then research if those covered therapists treat OCD. I’ve had less luck with this route though, since so few therapists specialize in OCD.

Alternative: There are also apps available, the most specialized for OCD being nOCD. This is another good option for online therapy. They accept most insurance and have trained therapists in all 50 states.

2. Keep a log of who you will try.

I like to create an Excel file log when I hunt for a new therapist. Once you start calling people, it can get confusing to keep track of who you’ve heard back from or who is accepting new clients. A spreadsheet is an easy way to keep all of the information in one place.

Some things I like to put on my log are:

  • Therapist name.
  • Office address.
  • Website.
  • Phone Number.
  • Do they accept your specific insurance?
  • Do they offer telehealth?
  • Status of the call (e.g., left a message, not accepting new clients, checking on insurance, etc.).

3. Call (or email) therapists.

For me, this is the hardest part. I have my spreadsheet of information, and now I have to actually pick up the phone. I go through my list, making three to five phone calls in the first round. As I call, I update the log with information, such as if I left a message or if they don’t accept my insurance. This is also a great time to ask more questions about their training and experience in treating OCD.

Once you’ve heard back, if none of those therapists work out, you can do a second or third round of calls.

Alternative: If phone calls are difficult for you, many therapists also have emails listed or contact forms on their website to make that first contact.

4. Schedule an initial appointment (or two).

After you’ve talked to a couple of therapists, and found someone with availability, go ahead and schedule an initial appointment. I say “or two” because, if your insurance allows, it’s OK to try more than one therapist before deciding who you click with best. It’s also OK to see one therapist for a few weeks, decide you don’t click, and pick someone else from the list. The relationship with your therapist is one of the most important parts of therapy.

5. Reevaluate and repeat, if necessary.

Hopefully, you have found a therapist and things are starting well. Good luck with your treatment. OCD is a bully, and you are a warrior. Rinse and repeat, as needed.


Photo by June O on Unsplash

Originally published: May 17, 2021
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