By Fabienne Bain, Ph.D.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can manifest at any time in someone’s life. However, adolescence, a period of intense emotional and cognitive development, is particularly prone to surfacing mental health issues. The disorder exacerbates teens’ emotional turmoil, heightening anxiety, self-doubt, and isolation. This is why identifying and getting help early, is important. Consider seeking support from us here at The Bain Health and Wellness Center. Therapy for Teens in Arlington, MA can provide valuable assistance in managing OCD in teens and its effects on mental health.

What is OCD?

OCD is a mental health condition characterized by persistent and distressing intrusive thoughts, known as obsessions, and repetitive behaviors or mental acts, known as compulsions. OCD significantly interferes with many aspects of a teen’s daily life such as school, extracurricular activities, and relationships. These obsessions can range from fears of contamination, harm to oneself or others, or fears of making a mistake. Compulsions, on the other hand, are ritualistic behaviors or mental acts performed in response to the obsessions to reduce anxiety or prevent a feared event, such as excessive hand washing, checking, counting, or repeating specific words or phrases.

What differentiates someone with OCD from someone who occasionally engages in OCD symptoms is the intensity of anxiety and distress caused by their obsessive and compulsive behaviors, which significantly impact daily life. Fortunately, with therapeutic approaches such as Exposure and Response Prevention, individuals with OCD can learn to manage their symptoms. While also regaining control over their lives.

Treatment for OCD

Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is the most effective therapeutic approach for treating OCD. This evidence-based form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) aims to help individuals with OCD break the cycle of obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors by systematically exposing them to their fears and guiding them to resist engaging in compulsive behaviors. Over time, this helps desensitize them to anxiety-triggering stimuli. In many cases, medication may be prescribed alongside therapy. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly used to manage OCD symptoms in teens. However, medication should be considered in conjunction with therapy for comprehensive treatment. Lastly, while respecting the teen’s need for privacy, involving parents in therapy can provide a more comprehensive and robust treatment. Parents can gain insights into the therapeutic process, reinforce learned coping strategies at home, and provide additional support.

A young woman sits at a table while looking at her laptop. Do you feel Therapy for Teens in MA can help your teens with OCD in Arlington, MA? A teen therapist can tell you if it is the right fit today!

How Exposure Therapy Empowers Teens with OCD

The idea of exposing your teen to exact things that scare them can be frightening. Yet, with the support of an experienced therapist, the process can be empowering for the teen, who learns that they can face their fears, and for parents, who learn ways to support their teen when overwhelmed by symptoms. ERP involves various principles, and here’s how it proves to be an effective treatment for OCD:

1. Disruption of the Obsessive-Compulsive Cycle:

ERP targets the core components of the OCD cycle – obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. Exposure disrupts the cycle by preventing the usual compulsive response, breaking the reinforcing connection between anxiety and the compulsive act. Over time, individuals learn that they can tolerate the anxiety without engaging in compulsions, leading to a reduction in the frequency and intensity of both obsessions and compulsions.

2. Systematic Desensitization:

A person's hand touches the door handle with a cloth so their hand does not touch the handle. Noticing your teens with ocd in Arlington, MA having trouble managing their OCD? Speak with a teen therapist to get your teen the help they need!

ERP operates on the principle of systematic desensitization, gradually exposing individuals to situations, objects, or thoughts that trigger their obsessions. This process helps desensitize them to associated anxiety. Exposure occurs hierarchically, starting with less anxiety-inducing situations and progressing to more challenging scenarios, allowing individuals to build resilience. For example, someone with the compulsion to repeatedly verify if their house doors are closed may be asked to gradually reduce checking the doors until refraining from checking them altogether.

3. Personalized and Tailored Approach for Teens with OCD

ERP is highly adaptable and can be tailored to the specific obsessions and compulsions of each individual, as well as the severity of symptoms. This personalized approach ensures that therapy addresses the unique challenges faced by each person with OCD. Therapists work collaboratively with teens to identify and prioritize their specific triggers, ensuring that the exposure exercises are relevant and effective.

4. Long-Term Maintenance of Gains

ERP has demonstrated its effectiveness in producing long-term benefits. Individuals who undergo ERP often experience lasting improvements, with research indicating that gains made during treatment are maintained long after therapy concludes (Law and Boisseau, 2019). This suggests that ERP not only addresses immediate symptoms but fosters enduring changes in behavior and thought patterns.

Support Teens with OCD through Therapy for Teens in Arlington, MA

A group of teenagers walk outside together. Do you see your teens with OCD in Arlington, MA struggling? Therapy for Teens with a teen therapist could help them!

Exposure and Response Prevention stands out as a cornerstone in the treatment of OCD due to its systematic, evidence-based, and personalized approach. By confronting fears in a controlled and supportive environment, teens with OCD can learn to manage their anxiety, break free from the grip of compulsions, and ultimately regain control over their lives. At The Bain Health and Wellness Center, Therapy for Teens in Arlington, MA can help guide teens through ERP, offering them the tools and support they need for effective treatment. Follow the steps below to begin working with us:

Other Therapy Services Offered at The Bain Health and Wellness Center

If you believe your teen has OCD, it’s important to find a therapist experienced in working with this disorder. At the Bain Health and Wellness Center (BainHWC) we have therapists who have extensive experience working with youth and teens with OCD. We offer in-person and virtual therapy for teens with OCD, anxiety, ADHD, depression, trauma, autism, and more. All mental health therapists at BainHWC are trained in evidence-based treatment and have several years of experience working with children, teens, and young adults. We would be happy to discuss what you are looking for and make recommendations on ways to proceed to help your child, you, and your family.


Law, C., & Boisseau, C. L. (2019). Exposure and Response Prevention in the Treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Current Perspectives. Psychology Research and Behavior Management, 12, 1167–1174.