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CBT for OCD a phone call away

15 July 2009

Throughout the UK there is very patchy availability of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) for children and adolescents with OCD, although this is the treatment recommended by NICE. In an attempt to overcome some of this inequality, researchers at the Institute of psychiatry and therapists at the Maudsley Hospital clinic for young people with OCD, have been experimenting with delivering CBT over the telephone. In a small initial study, children receiving 14 sessions of CBT over the telephone seemed to recover just as well as children who came to the clinic and received CBT face-to-face with a therapist

The team is now carrying out a large controlled trial comparing face-to-face with telephone CBT, for 12-18 year olds with OCD. The trial is funded by the Department of Health, in their Research for Patient Benefit scheme. Children and young people referred by their doctors to the clinic, and taken on for treatment, will be randomly offered either telephone or face-to-face treatment. This study will continue recruiting 80 or more children with OCD for the next 2 years. After all the treatment is finished, the results will be carefully analysed to establish the advantages and disadvantages of each form of treatment. Young people and their families will also be asked whether they liked the treatment.

In the pilot study, most teenagers treated said they really liked doing the CBT over the telephone. They liked using the workbook which they were given as part of the treatment, and which their therapist referred to at each session, as they talked on the telephone. Many families also said that they would not have been able to travel to the clinic for weekly appointments, as some patients treated lived many hours away from London.

Lead author Dr Isobel Heyman, Institute of Psychiatry, said 'This study is exciting because if it can be shown that telephone treatment for OCD works well, other centres in the UK can be trained up and this should enable children with OCD from wider geographical areas to access expert therapists by telephone, even if they live a long distance from the clinic.'

Footnote: If young people with OCD are interested in finding out more about the Maudsley telephone treatment trial, they need to ask their current psychiatrist or psychologist or GP to contact the clinic on 020 3228 5222. People with OCD can only be included in the trial following an NHS referral to the clinic.

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