For many therapists and other mental health professionals, the symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD, are fairly clear. But for parents of children who suffer from related difficulties, it’s not always a straightforward matter to distinguish between positive and unhelpful behaviors, and sometimes parents’ efforts to help their children can have the opposite effect. Validating the behaviors associated with OCD is a common, and often unintentional, result of parents’ reactions to their children’s symptoms. But through consultation with a mental health professional and a better understanding of how OCD tends to work, parents can provide the care they seek to bestow upon their children without worsening symptoms.
A study recently published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology has revealed that a large number of families engage in what the study terms as “accommodations,” which typically take place when parents wish to soothe upset over a particular worry or concern experienced by a child. Such accommodations can include assistance in carrying out obsessive rituals, or the verbal assurance of certain conditions about which the child is worried.
The study, conducted at the University of Florida, aimed to discover if therapy delivered to both young clients and their families could achieve more positive results, and to determine whether such therapies impacted the families as well as the children involved. Significantly, families who participated in the study showed a decrease in the occurrences of accommodating behaviors, in a direct relationship with the improvement of the child’s symptoms. The study may have important implications for the fields of child and family therapy, as the message that including family members in treatment is continuing to gain momentum throughout these fields.
© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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