What is the Intensive Outpatient Program for obsessive compulsive disorder?

three kiddos looking at the cameraOur program offers therapy 3 hours per day, 3 to 4 times a week to help kids with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) break their cycle of fearful thoughts and repeated behaviors. We expose your child to what they fear and teach them different ways to respond. This is called exposure and response prevention (E/RP). Research shows this is very effective. We also teach how you can do exposure exercises at home with your child.

Most kids attend our OCD Intensive Outpatient Program for 8 weeks. The program meets in Bellevue at Seattle Children’s at Overlake.

Families have seen great changes in their child as a result of the program. See how our program helped Eva break free from OCD.

Who can this program help?

Children and teens with OCD keep thinking that something is wrong, dirty or could hurt them. These worries (obsessions) make kids with OCD repeat the same behaviors over and over (compulsions).

Our OCD Intensive Outpatient Program helps children and teens 11 to 18 years old with OCD who either:

  • Have had at least 10 sessions of outpatient therapy with little improvement and score in the severe range on our assessment of their symptoms
  • Have severe symptoms and are at risk for needing treatment in a hospital or live-in (residential) program

What’s special about Seattle Children’s OCD Intensive Outpatient Program?

Experts in our Mood and Anxiety Program will treat your child. We are very experienced at diagnosing and treating children and teens with OCD using this approach:

    • We provide cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) for children and teens with OCD. Our main focus is exposure and response prevention (E/RP). During therapy, we expose your child to the thoughts, images, objects or situations that cause them anxiety.
    • We show them different ways to act when they feel fear. Over time, their anxiety, such as about dirt or germs, decreases and your child stops doing their compulsions, such as washing hands.
    • Research shows that exposure therapy is the most successful treatment for anxiety disorders, including OCD. It is even more effective when combined with medicine for a limited time. Children with severe OCD may need medicine for 12 to 24 months.
    • The program runs 3 hours a day, 4 days each week. Most kids take part for about 8 weeks. It may be a few weeks longer if your child needs more treatment.
    • You and your child will attend group sessions to learn skills to manage OCD and anxiety. Part of the time you’ll be in a group with 6 to 8 kids and their parents. Together, we review exposure homework and strategies for kids and parents to use to treat OCD.
    • Part of each day is also spent working one-on-one with a therapist who will help your child through that day’s exposure practice.
    • If needed, you will meet with our psychiatrist about your child’s medicine.

    After your child completes the program, they return to their current community mental health providers for continued treatment or follow-up, as needed.

  • Parents and guardians are important members of your child’s treatment team. We need you to take part in the program.

    • A parent or guardian attends each session.
    • You learn how to practice ER/P at home, in 90-minute group sessions with other parents each week.
    • Having a child with OCD can be stressful for the whole family. We can connect you to community resources.
    • Our healthcare team is specially trained in how to diagnose and treat children and teens. Kids don’t react to anxiety and medicine in the same way as adults. They need – and deserve – care designed just for them.
    • Our experts are focused on how today’s treatment will affect your child as they develop and become an adult.
    • Read how our innovative therapies help kids and teens with OCD.

How to Get Services

Kiddo laughing with momTo see if our OCD Intensive Outpatient Program is right for your child:

  1. Ask your child’s primary care provider or therapist to refer you for services. If your child is a current patient at Seattle Children’s, ask their provider for a referral to the “OCD Intensive Outpatient Program.”
  2. Once we receive a referral from your provider, we will contact you to set up an assessment.
  3. The assessment takes place over 2 meetings. This helps us confirm your child’s diagnosis and decide if this program is the best fit. If a different program would work better for your child, we will suggest other options.
  4. If the program is a good fit for your child, our insurance department will work to get pre-authorization from your insurance company. Most insurance plans cover the treatment, but many require authorization before your child starts. See answers to common questions about mental health coverage.
  5. If you already have an appointment, read about:

Providers, see how to refer a patient.

Who is on the team?

Providers in the program include:

Contact Us

For more information, contact the OCD Intensive Outpatient Program at 206-987-2164. If you would like an appointment, ask your child’s primary care provider or therapist for a referral. The program meets in Bellevue at Seattle Children’s at Overlake.

Providers, see how to refer a patient.

Paying for Care

Learn about paying for care at Seattle Children’s including insurance coverage, billing and financial assistance.