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How to Find OCD Support Groups

Group therapy for OCD can help you feel better and learn coping skills, and you can attend in person, through video call, or in a text chat. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition characterized by recurrent, intrusive thoughts, ideas, or sensations (obsessions), and repeated behaviors performed to reduce anxiety (compulsions). Approximately 2%–3% of

  • Posted on 20th May, 2022 15:30 PM
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Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition characterized by recurrent, intrusive thoughts, ideas, or sensations (obsessions), and repeated behaviors performed to reduce anxiety (compulsions). Approximately 2%–3% of adults in the United States are affected by OCD at some point during their lifetime.

OCD is typically treated with psychotherapy (talk therapy), such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and/or medication. Some people with OCD find value in joining a support group in addition to treatment.

This article discusses how to find a support group to help with OCD.

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What Are OCD Support Groups?

Support groups offer a space for people with similar experiences (such as the same health diagnosis) to come together and share support, resources, and information.

They may be organized by individuals or made available through support agencies such as:

  • Community organizations
  • Mental health service providers
  • Schools
  • Campuses
  • Hospitals
  • Clinics

Support groups can be:

  • Peer-led: Run by a nonprofessional with firsthand experience and possibly some training in facilitation
  • Formal: Led by health or mental health professionals
  • Combination: Co-led by a peer and a professional

Support groups typically involve regular meetings that take place in person or online.

Benefits of Group Therapy

Group therapy is a way for mental health professionals to offer an effective, affordable alternative to individual psychotherapy.

Group therapy can also:

  • Provide social support
  • Improve social networks
  • Reduce stigma, isolation, and feelings of alienation

Group therapy is proven to be effective at treating many mental health disorders, including OCD.

Therapy in a group setting also allows the therapist to observe how participants interact with each other and look for relational patterns.

Benefits of Support Groups

Support groups can help members:

  • Find comfort in others and know they are not alone
  • Give and receive emotional support
  • Share resources, such as information about local services
  • Reduce stress
  • Develop helpful coping and symptom-management skills
  • Learn ways to better communicate with healthcare and mental health professionals

How Do Support Groups and Group Therapy Differ?

Support groups are not the same as group therapy. Group therapy is formal, professional therapy (such as CBT), offered by a mental health professional. It is similar to individual therapy, just in a group setting. Support groups, while beneficial, are not therapy and are not a substitute for therapy.

Red Flags to Avoid

Anyone can start a support group, and not all of them are of high quality. Some signs a group may not be worth your time—or worse, be harmful—include:

  • It promises a cure.
  • It discourages evidence-based treatments, such as CBT or medication.
  • It's a judgmental environment.
  • There are unreasonably high costs.
  • You're offered a sales pitch.
  • You're made to feel uncomfortable, unsafe, or disrespected.
  • It is unstructured and solely a social gathering with no helpful elements.

If you attend a support group meeting and feel that the group isn't a good fit for you, you are not obligated to continue attending meetings.

What Look For

Some indications a group is worth looking into or continuing include:

  • It's a welcoming, supportive environment.
  • It's affordable.
  • It respects members' privacy and offers confidentiality.
  • Leaders share useful resources and good-quality, reliable information.
  • It fosters inclusion, safety, respect, and an environment in which members feel comfortable sharing.
  • There are clear guidelines, rules, and expectations.
  • It helps members develop healthy and helpful coping strategies.
  • It's affiliated with or led at least in part by a CBT-trained therapist.
  • Members enjoy being there.
  • It offers helpful meetings and you benefit from being part of the group.
  • It encourages socializing in addition to the structured meeting.

Questions to Ask Before Joining a Support Group

Before joining a support group, it may be helpful to ask the facilitator questions about:

  • Accepting new members and requirements to join
  • Group details (where and when do they meet, length of meetings, etc.)
  • Size of the group and number of members who typically attend each meeting
  • Affiliations with any organizations, programs, or religions
  • How confidentiality is handled
  • Structure of meetings and topics discussed
  • Who runs the group and their qualifications

Support Group Options

Types of support groups include:

  • Curriculum-based: Informative and promotes well-being through psychoeducation; often implements tools such as readings from articles and books
  • Topic-focused: Focuses on a specific subject, which may or may not change
  • Open forum: Least rigid or structured; typically no preselected topics; free-flowing conversations and it adapts to the needs and interests of the members

Each type comes with benefits and limitations. It may take a bit of time and exploration to find the group that is the right fit for you.

Online Support Groups

You can search for online and phone-based support groups for OCD through the:

Examples of online groups include:

In-Person Support Groups

To find an in-person group in your area, speak with your mental health professional, or try searching:

Summary

The first-line treatment for OCD is psychotherapy, such as CBT. CBT is effective in both one-on-one and group therapy.

People with OCD may also find connecting with others to be helpful. Support groups are not therapy and should not be used in place of therapy, but they can be a valuable addition to treatment. Support groups can help people with OCD share valuable resources, make social connections, and give and receive support.

A Word From Verywell 

If you are living with OCD, you may find joining a support group beneficial, in addition to your formal treatment. Talking with others who understand your experiences can be both helpful and validating. Your healthcare or mental health provider may have contact information for local support groups, or you can join one that is based online.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is group therapy effective for OCD?

    CBT (the first-line treatment for OCD) has been shown to be effective at treating OCD in a group setting.

  • Can OCD be treated without medication?

    Medication can be used to treat OCD, but often psychotherapy is used as a treatment without medication.

  • What is the best form of therapy for OCD?

    CBT, particularly exposure and response prevention (ERP), is considered the most effect psychotherapy treatment for OCD.

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