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February 3, 2000

New program offered for obsessive-compulsive patients

A program offered at UPMC Health System may help adults with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) who have not had success with traditional outpatient programs.

Approximately 3 percent of people have OCD. People with the disorder often experience obsessions, which are senseless thoughts, impulses or images, such as worrying about hurting others they do not really wish to harm or doubting that something was done properly. Many cope by repeating rituals called compulsions. Those obsessed with a fear of germs may wash their hands repeatedly. Others may repetitively count or check things. These thoughts and rituals make living a normal life difficult.

The OCD partial hospital program is unique in the region. Patients spend three days a week, 10 a.m. -3 p.m., receiving private, intensive behavioral treatment from mental health professionals.

According to Mark Jones, program director, Center for Treatment of OCD, up to 50 percent of people with OCD may require such treatment. "The program is designed for that portion of OCD patients who have difficulty following through with exposure treatment on their own," Jones said. "In this setting, they have the support of a counselor for hours every day. That contact has the potential to make a big difference in their outcomes."

Traditional psychotherapy is generally ineffective in addressing symptoms of OCD. Experts in OCD endorse cognitive behavioral therapy, along with medication, as the treatment of choice. Clients' individualized treatment plans in the OCD partial hospital program usually include medication, group and individual cognitive behavioral therapies, specialized coping and skill enhancement education and support and skill training for their families.

For more information, call 624-4466.

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