NAMI NJ 2015 Conference: Healing Ourselves, Healing Others

NAMI NJ 2015 Speakers

My co-author Janet Singer and I will be speaking at the NAMI NJ Annual Conference on December 5, 2015. Please join us! For more information, click here.




Doing Less to Conquer Your Fear

Think Act BeIn this fourth post in a series on therapist mistakes in ERP for OCD, I discuss ways that exposure can be stripped of its power, and why it’s best to avoid distraction during exposure.

How to Choose the Right Kind of Exposure in ERP for OCD

Think Act BeThe “Exposure” in ERP can be one of two kinds: imaginal or in vivo. Read more about how therapists can determine which form of exposure is called for.

You Want Me To Lick What?!

Think Act BeIn this post I expand on the notion of doing “extreme” exposures as a part of exposure and response prevention therapy, or ERP. It’s the second in a series on therapist errors in ERP.

Seven Ways Therapists Can Mess Up the Best OCD Treatment

Think Act BeI will be reposting some entries from my blog and wanted to start with an early post on exposure and response prevention therapy. The full post is available here.

First Post on “Think, Act, Be”

Earlier this month I wrote my first blog entry on You can view it here:

End-of-Year Reflections

On the eve of the new year I wanted to take some time to reflect on the year that’s ending and to look ahead to 2015.

One of the biggest changes that I look forward to is being in full-time clinical practice. When I left the University of Pennsylvania in 2012 I took a visiting assistant professor position in psychology at Haverford College around the same time that I opened my practice. It’s been a wonderful place to teach and do research, and the faculty in my department have been unfailingly kind and generous.

As my practice has grown over the past couple years I’ve realized that as much as I enjoy academia, my heart is in the clinical work. On a daily basis I have the privilege to work with individuals who are determined to get their lives back. Whether it’s sleeping better, finding new ways to cope with stress, facing fears, fighting addictions, strengthening relationships, healing from trauma and loss, or anything else, I get to be witness to the courage that allows us to make tough changes. I couldn’t ask for anything more than to be a part of that process.

This fall I made the final decision to leave Haverford College after the 2014-2015 year, and to focus my efforts on being a therapist. I’m excited to see what lies ahead.

This year also saw the birth of our baby in November. I was grateful for her safe arrival and for the strong support from so many who shared in our joy.

Early 2015 will also bring the publication of Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery which Janet Singer wrote about her son’s recovery from severe OCD through exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy. I provide commentary throughout the book on topics related to OCD. I also plan to start blogging on in the new year.

I wish you health and happiness in 2015, and many moments of feeling fully alive.

Blogging at (and Changes to This Blog)

Recently I was invited to join the roster of bloggers at

I plan to write posts for that are similar to what I’ve been doing here, so many of my future entries on this blog will be re-posts from things I’ve written for Psychology Today.

The general page for blogs at is here.

Once my page is set up I’ll share the link.

OCD Awareness Week 2014: “I’m a Little OCD” Repost

Today marks the beginning of OCD Awareness Week. According to the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) the goals of this awareness week are to “educate the public about what it means to have OCD and related disorders, to fight stigma of mental health issues, and to help people find the resources and treatment they need.”

My friend and co-author Janet Singer works constantly toward these related goals. I’d like to share the blog entry that she posted most recently, which talks about a common response when the topic of OCD comes up: “I’m a little OCD myself.”

Thanks to Janet and others who are engaged in similar work, more OCD sufferers can find the kind of help that makes life livable again.

What’s More Important Than Your Fear?

Ambrose Redmoon is credited with saying that “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” A recent article and video on beautifully illustrated this truth. The piece features Attis Clopton, who had an intense fear of water. He decided he wanted to conquer his longstanding fear, and so worked with a swim coach to do just that.

Many things stood out to me from watching the video, given the work that I do. First, Attis Clopton had had traumatic experiences with water, and his solution was to avoid water and the fear that came with it. Like Attis, we’re all wounded during our lives in various ways, and we make compromises to keep going. We might avoid certain situations, guard ourselves in relationships, use drugs or alcohol to cope, or cling to a sense of control. These compromises can work, and then at some point may stop working, or not be worth what they cost. Attis finally reached a point where he realized he was alive but wasn’t truly living his life. He knew he had to change.

This need to change provided the motivation that Attis needed. Whenever we make big changes in our lives there inevitably comes a point when we think that maybe the old way, the “safe” way, really wasn’t so bad. At these times we can remind ourselves of why we wanted to change in the first place. Why were we not content to leave things as they were? And what’s on the other side of our fears? For Attis, facing his fear was a huge challenge, so there had to be compelling reasons to stay in the water when he really wanted to flee.

Attis also needed to experience the water, and it was his experience that changed him. It wouldn’t have been enough simply to be told that “water isn’t always dangerous.” That intellectual understanding could only take him so far. What got him over his fears was moving through them. Nothing is more powerful than our actual experience of successfully doing what we’re afraid of.

In many ways Attis’s instructor was like a good exposure therapist. She seemed to understand and empathize with his fear, and at the same time wasn’t willing to let him stay there. She also had a program of exercises that were gradual and systematic, with later steps building on earlier ones–just like we do in exposure therapy.

Once Attis had overcome his fears, he still had a lot of work to do. Even though he was no longer afraid, he didn’t know how to swim. I often find something similar in my clinical work–after the symptoms are under control, there’s still the task of creating the kind of life that the person wants. For example, overwhelming social anxiety can lead to a stunted career in addition to impoverished relationships; after successful treatment, a person has the challenge and the opportunity to build a better life.

Every time we decide it’s worth it to face our fears, we allow our lives to expand. And with that expansion comes freedom–the freedom to live lives that we value, to share love with close others, to face life with all its beauty and uncertainty. The image of Attis Clopton swimming in the ocean perfectly captures that sense of freedom in letting go. We can decide as often as we need to that freedom is worth more than our fears.

The article and video are found here.