“Loving Someone with OCD: Family, Friend, Yourself” — Support offered at OCD TEXAS conference in Houston

The theme of the quarterly meeting and conference of OCD TEXAS held in Houston on Saturday, June 11, 2011, was inspired by the title of a popular and widely-recommended book by Karen J. Landsman, PhD, Kathleen Rupertus, MA, MS, and Cherry Pedrick, RN, “Loving Someone With OCD: Help for You & Your Family”.Landsman_book loving someone

Saharah Shrout, OCD TEXAS Secretary and the Houston Meeting Coordinator, opened the meeting saying that the aim of the meeting was to offer support for anyone who cared about someone living with OCD, including families, friends, and current and future treatment professionals, as well as OCD sufferers themselves. In their efforts to make their loved one more comfortable, people often “accommodate” the OCD, tolerating OCD rituals and avoidance behaviors, and even helping the OCD sufferer perform rituals or performing the rituals themselves to “help” their loved one, but this typically backfires and actually strengthens the OCD over time. The conference sought to offer support and information for loved ones so that they could support and encourage their loved one without supporting or encouraging the OCD.

Keynote Speaker: Kevin Putman gave an entertaining and moving keynote address. He told the story of his OCD which began at age 10, when, upon packing for a camping trip, his socks just didn’t “feel right”; he tried them on one foot and then another until one “felt right”, and he then marked them with “L” or “R” in an attempt to make sure he’d have socks that felt right when he was away on his trip. Thus began the OCD rituals that grew to take over years of his life.

As an adult Kevin’s OCD became debilitating, involving many exhausting hours of che c king and re-checking every day. Kevin credited his wife, who had read the book, “Loving Someone With OCD: Help for You & Your Family”, for helping him begin the process of his recovery. He said that at first he had gotten very upset when she began following the book’s recommendations, but he said he was very grateful to her for encouraging him to fight his OCD.

Two years ago he entered intensive treatment at the Houston OCD Program. He said that treatment was difficult; he referred to himself not just as an “OCD sufferer” but as an “OCD warrier”. After 2 months of hard work in treatment, he had learned to live a healthier life. Kevin wrote a rap song about OCD as his creative way of thanking the staff who he truly believed saved his life. At the end of his address, at the audience’s request, he performed his song, without accompaniment; the audience heard his story of recovery recapped in song.

Kevin’s success in his fight against OCD also led him to create a Ping Pong Tournament, called PingPong4OCD, to raise awareness and funds for OCD in Kevin’s community of Northern Michigan. He encouraged those in the audience with OCD, and those who loved them, to have hope, to seek effective treatment which is now available, and to keep fighting against OCD.

Speakers:

Thröstur Björgvinsson, PhD, gave an introductory talk, “The Basics to Understanding and Treating OCD”.

John Hart, PhD, spoke on “Self-Compassion”, an alternative to self-esteem that many psychologists believe is a better and more effective path to happiness. Recent research by Kristin Neff, PhD, and others suggests that people who are more self-compassionate lead healthier, more productive lives than those who are self-critical. John reported that person’s score on a self-report measure of self-compassion is proving to be a useful as a predictor of clients’ ability to make use of psychotherapy, as well as a useful attitude toward one’s shortcomings that can be developed in therapy.

Liz McIngvale, LMSW, spokesperson for the International OCD Foundation, offered suggestions from her experience and those of others, in her talk, “Peer-Led Support Groups: How to build and maintain them.”

Networking and Support Groups:

Participants also had opportunities for meeting with each other throughout the day for social networking and support.

The conference concluded with several special small support groups, including support groups for teens, families of OCD sufferers, adults with OCD, as well as support group for people with Hoarding Disorder.

Bobbi Duncan, Vice-President and Member Support Coordinator for OCD TEXAS, organized the support group meetings.

Sponsors:

The meeting was sponsored by the Houston OCD Program (gold sponsor) and Liza Bonin, PhD (silver sponsor). OCD TEXAS is very grateful to our sponsors for their generous donations which helped make this meeting possible.

The meeting was held at the Renaissance Houston Greenway Plaza Hotel.

Officers and Volunteers:

OCD TE XAS thanks Saharah Shrout for her great job as Meeting Coordinator, as well as the officers and the many volunteers who worked so hard and well to make this meeting a success. (Pictured left to right: Saharah Shrout, Secretary; Bobbie Duncan, Vice-President and Member Support Coordinator; Irene Tobis, President; Robert Norris, Treasurer. Not pictured: Loren Hass, Outreach Coordinator, and John Hart, Research and Professional Development Coordinator.)

Thanks also go to Scott Teven, a Houston photographer, for his photographs of the event. You can see his photos of Houston and Texas at www.photohouston.com.

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