Potentials and Limitations of Cognitive Treatments for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

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Obsessive-compulsive disorder, treatment, cognitive therapy, exposure therapy


Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Exposure and response prevention (ERP) is a well-established treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). However, it is not completely effective for many patients, and some do not benefit from or tolerate this treatment. Over the past 3 decades there has been growing interest in using cognitive interventions, either as adjuncts or alternatives to exposure-based treatments such as ERP, to address these shortcomings. Cognitive therapy and cognitive behavior therapy for OCD have both demonstrated greater efficacy than no treatment at all, and appear to have a lower incidence of dropout than ERP. Unfortunately, however, for the average OCD patient, cognitive interventions have not improved treatment efficacy; that is, cognitive interventions, either alone or combined with ERP, are no more effective than ERP alone. Reasons for this disappointing result are considered, and indications for the use of cognitive interventions are discussed. Future research directions are suggested in order to evaluate more fully the merits of, and indications for, cognitive methods for treating OCD.

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APA Citation: Abramowitz, J. S., Taylor, S. McKay, D. (2005). Potentials and limitations of cognitive treatments for obsessive-compulsive disorder. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 34(3), 140-147.