Training Trade: OCD Clinicians Learn about Autism

By Diane Davey, RN, MBA

August 1, 2013

At the OCD Institute, we are constantly working to stay abreast of the most up-to-date treatments for our patients so that we can provide the highest-quality care. This includes reading new research, attending conferences and workshops, and talking with our colleagues across the country about what techniques they are finding most useful in their practice.

We are always assessing, both objectively and subjectively, how well we are treating certain types of patients and looking at ways to improve. At the same time, imparting the knowledge we have about OCD treatment to others in the field and the community in general is an integral part of our mission. At the OCDI, we have noticed a significant increase in the numbers of adult patients diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and other ASDs.

This spring, we took an innovative approach to both our mission of training others and remaining a state-of-the-art treatment facility for adults with OCD by establishing a “training trade” with our colleagues at the Neurobehavioral Institute (NBI) in Weston, Florida.

Staff members from McLean’s OCDI and Florida’s Neurobehavioral Institute
Staff members from McLean’s OCDI and Florida’s Neurobehavioral Institute

The Neurobehavioral Institute is a specialized outpatient clinic in South Florida that specializes in the treatment of OCD and anxiety, as well as Asperger’s syndrome and other autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).

While we have received some training in treating these kinds of patients, we have seen a growing influx of these patients being referred to us and we wanted to improve our expertise in this area. NBI recognized that several of our therapists were highly regarded in using acceptance and commitment therapy, or ACT, as an adjunctive treatment to traditional OCD interventions.

We therefore negotiated a “training trade”, where 2 OCDI therapists traveled to Florida to offer an ACT training for the NBI staff and 2 NBI therapists then came to McLean to talk with us about treatment of ASD’s and OCD.

Nate Gruner, LICSW, one of the OCDI’s behavioral therapists, and Dr. Jesse Crosby, post-doctoral fellow in research, traveled to Florida to discuss ACT and its clinical application for OCD treatment. The training also covered the theory and research supporting the ACT model. Gruner and Crosby focused specifically on integrating ACT and exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy for patients who are struggling to succeed with ERP alone.

In return, Dr. Katia Moritz and Dr. Jonathan Hoffman, both clinical directors at the Neurobehavioral Institute, came to McLean to discuss the overlap of Asperger’s syndrome and OCD. Their presentation informed us how to recognize and differentiate Asperger’s/ASDs from OCD and how treatment should be adjusted for those with these co-occurring diagnoses. Also discussed were the family implications of working with patients with ASDs.

For those looking for more information, we highly recommend Dr. Hoffman’s book Stuck: Asperger’s Syndrome and Obsessive-Compulsive Behaviors.

We are certainly excited about the success of our pilot training trade program since the feedback from the staff at both centers was exceedingly positive. We look to continue to expand and grow our clinical expertise in many different areas so that we can successfully treat as many patients as possible while also continuing to fulfill our mission as a primary training site for OCD treatment.

Diane Davey, RN, MBA, is the program director of McLean’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Institute (OCDI).

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