“OCD Advocacy and Awareness: Dare to believe…you can make a difference” was the theme of the OCD TEXAS conference in Austin on Saturday, October 15, 2011.
The full-day conference was one of several advocacy and awareness-raising events in conjunction with OCD Awareness Week, October 10-16, 2011. The conference held at the Radisson Hotel & Suites Austin Downtown. Other special events were held at various locations in Austin, including the offices of Cedar Springs Austin, the platinum sponsor.
OCD TEXAS, non-profit support and advocacy organization for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, has already made a difference to hundreds of people with OCD, their families, and treatment providers across Texas since its formation a year ago. The organization celebrated its first year as the Texas affiliate of the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF). Since its kickoff conference in Austin in October 2010, OCD TEXAS has also offered full-day conferences in Dallas and Houston and a Roundup! meeting at the annual IOCDF conference in San Diego. It has also provided information and resources to hundreds of individuals and groups via phone and email correspondence and this website. This week OCD TEXAS also helped launch a new initiative, the OCD Encouragement Project.
Keynote Address – “From Hardship to Hope: How I Beat My OCD”
Chris Trondsen, Spokesperson for the International OCD Foundation
Chris Trondsen began struggling with OCD and Body Dysmorphic Disorder at age 7. He was diagnosed at age 20 but was told that his condition was so severe that he would suffer with it for the rest of his life and could never improve. With hard work, determination, and the help of the OCD treatment specialists and support of his family, Chris was able to get his OCD under control. From being completely home-bound due to 18 hour a day crippling obsessions and compulsions, now, at age 27, he has graduated college, studied martial arts, gotten back to work, and as Spokesperson for the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) is dedicated to helping others get information and treatment for OCD so they won’t have to suffer as long as he did without any knowledge or awareness of what they are suffering from. He encouraged people in the audience struggling with OCD to not think they wait until they have to be “all better” to begin helping others with OCD. He advocated for advocacy. “No matter how badly you’re doing,” he said, “there’s somebody doing worse, and you can help them.”
OCD in Media and Art – Producers of Machine Man, a film about a man struggling with OCD, showed a trailer and offered their vision of changing perceptions of OCD through media and art. The producers, Kellie Madison and Craig James Pietrowiak, are working closely with the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) on this ground-breaking project. Audience members commented on the power of the actor in the feature film actually showing the intense fear OCD sufferers experience when visited by horrific intrusive thoughts, rather than merely describing or discussing it in a documentary. They also appreciated the “love story”, showing the effect of OCD on the main character’s wife, and the importance of her support in his struggle against his OCD. The film makers are currently seeking funding for the film, as well as an “A-list” actor to play the lead character.
“OCD 101” Chad Wetterneck, PhD – gave an introductory lecture on OCD for the newly diagnosed, families and friends, students, and therapists. (See slides attached below.)
“Troubleshooting Your OCD Treatment” – Expert therapists John Hart, PhD and Bruce Mansbridge, PhD did a question-and-answer session on motivation, setbacks, plateaus, medication and other issues for OCD patients in therapy.
“OCD (TOC) Español” – Tania Pérez-Duarte, MS, CBT-Trained OCD therapist from Mexico City and Coordinadora de español for OCD TEXAS, offered an introductory session about OCD in Spanish.
Panel: “Your Rights in School and at Work”
A panel of experts spoke on school and work accommodations for individuals with OCD.
Vickie Schafer, PhD, psychologist at the ApaCenter in Austin, spoke on individual education plans (IEPs) for grade school and high school students with OCD.
Stephani Wolfe, Director of Services for Students with Disabilities at UT Austin, spoke on academic accommodations in college.
Brian East, an attorney with Disability Rights Texas outlined the provisions of the Americans With Disabilities ACT (ADA) and offered suggestions for evaluating whether and how individuals with OCD might seek “reasonable accommodations” from their employers. (See slides attached below.)
The panelists answered questions from conference attendees, and conference attendees also offered information from their experiences with seeking accommodations.
“Advocacy for Yourself and Others: Success Stories”
In the closing session, a panel of 6 people spoke on their successful experiences in overcoming OCD and the limitations it had placed on their lives or the lives of people they loved. They spoke of success with various OCD treatments that they had experienced in Texas and elsewhere, and of success at obtaining accommodations. Feedback surveys indicated that these stories, from humorous to deeply moving, were among the most useful offerings of the conference for many of the attendees.
Networking and Support Groups:
Participants also had opportunities for meeting with each other throughout the day for networking and support. Volunteers facilitated several special small support groups, including support groups for families of OCD sufferers and for teens as well as adults with OCD. A support group for people with Hoarding Disorder also met. Members of the Austin Trichotillomania Support Group joined attendees with Body Dysmorphic Disorder in a special support group let by keynote speaker Chris Trondsen.
Exhibitor Tables: Participants perused books offered for sale at a special conference discount by Professional Books, Inc. Exhibitors included traditional OCD treatment programs and also the newly-launched online self-paced self-help OCD Challenge. Community Clinical Research sought participants for a research study on OCD. GreetingCardCollection.com offered a 5% donation to OCD TEXAS when attendees ordered holiday cards online.
A raffle of donated items included one-night stay at the Radisson Hotel & Suites Austin Downtown, gift certificates from Starbuck’s and TGI Friday’s at the hotel, books, notecards, gift items, and OCD TEXAS t-shirts. Proceeds went to OCD TEXAS.