Treating OCD in Children and Teens

A child receiving OCD treatment while sitting at a desk.
Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge

Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge

A huge, often missing component in the treatment of OCD in kids and teens is explaining what OCD is and how it affects the brain to kids and their parents. That means understanding how OCD impacts a child’s behavior and how easy it is to inadvertently accommodate or feed into a child’s obsessions or compulsions. That means well meaning parents accidentally providing too much comfort or saying things that feed the their intrusive thoughts  and repetitive behaviors instead of decreasing OCD symptoms. A highly experienced OCD therapist for children and teens should spend much of the first session not only evaluating your child's or teen's OCD but also explaining what obsessions and compulsions look like, the neuroscience of OCD and what areas of the brain are affected, how OCD treatments works and what what treatment looks like. 

It is important to discuss what each family member should expect out of treatment and paint the picture of the work that is done in Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) Therapy. The daily life of living with a person with obsessive thoughts and repeated behaviors, especially repeated questioning that can go on hours a day can be very draining and parents need to what to say and do to help their child break the cycle. 

What Questions Should an OCD Therapist Discuss with a Patient? 



What is OCD Therapy Like?


An OCD therapist who uses Exposure Response and Prevention Therapy (ERP)  for OCD will spend time at every session helping a child or teen and their parents understand why OCD thoughts and compulsions form a neurological habit and exactly how to use neuroscience to “talk back” to OCD. Once they understand the negative reinforcement cycle, kids with OCD have the power to break OCD habituation. They learn to take control of their OCD instead of OCD being in control. Developing OCD typically doesn't happen overnight, although it can with a sudden onset due to PANS/PANDAS/AE, so most of the time it will take many weeks and months to intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors to a more manageable level or to even within a normal range. 

What is the Best Treatment for OCD in Children and Teens? 


At our center, we use a combination of two science-backed approaches, ERP therapy and neurofeedback with our in person and virtual clients. In terms of the most effective type of psychotherapy, the efficacy of ERP for OCD is well documented. It is designed to give clients the education and skills to get control of their thoughts and sensations that have hijacked their brain. Unlike talk therapy that over focuses on feelings, ERP teaches one to reign in those runaway thoughts. I can’t tell you how many kids (and adults) with OCD have found the most value with ERP in helping them break free from intrusive thinking and not connect to feelings first. 

ERP for OCD in Children and Teens 


Exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy is the gold standard of treatment for children and adolescents with OCD. It’s systematic methods have a lot of research to show how effective ERP is in reducing and even eliminating OCD symptoms. 

ERP requires heavy parent involvement and practice at home helping your child with breaking the OCD cycle. That means teaching your child how to cope with anxiety, intrusive thoughts and compulsions instead of accidentally reinforcing them by what we say and do. We walk parents through this and teach them how to respond to OCD driven behaviors and what to say to your child. Parents are often so unsure of what to say to their child with OCD and it’s so hard to see a child in distress and gaining these tools are a game changer. A good ERP therapist empowers the child and family with OCD tools to tamp down that OCD tyrant! 

Does Medication Help OCD? 


Given the potential of medication side effects and the toxic effect of psychiatric medications on a developing brain, it is preferable to begin treatment with ERP and neurofeedback. This combination is not only effective but it’s safe and natural. 

Treatments such as neurofeedback for OCD, supplements for OCD, and ERP for OCD are science-backed methods that create lasting change. 

Neurofeedback for OCD in Children and Teens


If one’s nervous system is stress hyper activated, then a child with OCD can’t think, pay attention or take action in a way that stops their OCD. Instead, their stress hijacked brain gets stuck in a looping thought and behavioral pattern. That is why neurofeedback for OCD is so powerful because it calms the CNS at a subconscious level so a person isn’t in a constant activated state. 

Neurofeedback calms the nervous system and moves a child to a more relaxed, parasympathetic state and when that happens, the person with OCD can have the bandwidth to take action and think differently. 

The brain-based therapies we use calm the nervous system,  so a person can respond to all stimuli in a more healthy way. That means fewer obsessions, compulsions, irritated and angry behaviors, worried thoughts, and calm thinking, engaged behaviors, and an ability to think and act without getting so stuck.

You can learn more about how neurofeedback works and helps OCD in my blog, Neurofeedback for OCD

Want to learn more about OCD?


Wondering what are the signs and symptoms of OCD? Then read this article, What is OCD? OCD in children can look different than adults and is often missed. It often starts with subtle behaviors, such as a need for reassuring questions, insistence on nighttime rituals, or other behaviors that you may interpret as, “nerves” or worry. To learn more about the signs and symptoms of OCD in children and teens, read this blog to help you understand what’s the difference between anxiety and OCD. And read my blog, how OCD affects the brain to understand what causes OCD. There are great natural treatments for OCD, including supplements for OCD or herbs for OCD, neurofeedback for OCD, and Exposure and Response Prevention for OCD. Looking for information on natural solutions and treatments for OCD? Then download this FREE Natural Solutions and Treatments for OCD. And wondering what the research says what dosages of these herbs and supplements your child should be taking, then download this FREE OCD Supplement Checklist.

Always remember… “Calm Brain, Happy Family™”

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to give health advice and it is recommended to consult with a physician before beginning any new wellness regime. 

Are you looking for SOLUTIONS for your child or teen with OCD? 

Dr. Roseann and her team are all about solutions, so you are in the right place! 

There are 3 ways to work with Dr. Roseann: 

You can get her books for parents and professionals, including: It’s Gonna Be OK™: Proven Ways to Improve Your Child’s Mental Health, Teletherapy Toolkit™ and Brain Under Attack: A Resource For Parents and Caregivers of Children With PANS, PANDAS, and Autoimmune Encephalopathy.

Are you a professional who wants more training from Dr. Roseann? 

Purchase her book, Teletherapy Toolkit™: Therapist Handbook for Treating Children and Teens

If you are a business or organization that needs proactive guidance to support employee mental health or an organization looking for a brand representative, check out Dr. Roseann’s professional speaking page to see how we can work together. 

Dr. Roseann is a Children’s Mental Health Expert and Therapist who has been featured in/on hundreds of  media outlets including, CBS, NBC, FOX News, PIX11 NYC, The New York Times, The Washington Post,, Business Insider, USA Today, CNET, Marth Stewart, and PARENTS. FORBES called her, “A thought leader in children’s mental health.” 

She is the founder and director of The Global Institute of Children’s Mental Health and Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge. Dr. Roseann is a Board Certified Neurofeedback (BCN) Practitioner, a Board Member of the Northeast Region Biofeedback Society (NRBS), Certified Integrative Medicine Mental Health Provider (CMHIMP) and an Amen Clinic Certified Brain Health Coach.  She is also a member of The International Lyme Disease and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), The American Psychological Association (APA), Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR) and The Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB).

© Roseann-Capanna-Hodge, LLC 2021

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