I first learned of the Live OCD Free app when I was in Boston last October, attending an event hosted by the International OCD Foundation. I was intrigued by the idea of a web app that could simulate or guide Exposure and Response Prevention, so I picked up some handouts to take back to my university, and that was that.
Until I had lunch with Faith, this incredible 9-year-old who is battling with OCD.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, I had stored the memory that this app had a children’s version to it, so I contacted the company and asked if I could have a free trial of the app so that– if I liked it– I could promote it on my blog. I received a very kind email from Dr. Kristen Mulcahy, who also sent me a promo code.
Live OCD Free app
What it is:
Billed as “your personal pocket therapist,” this web app allows you to undergo cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), specifically Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), either on your own or with the help of a therapist. With it, you create a hierarchy of exposures, practice your exposures, and record your progress. You can even easily email your progress reports to your therapist! There is an adult version and a child version (both available with just the one purchase).
In the child version of the app, there is a video that shares the story of the “Worry Wizard” with the child– in the video, the Worry Wizard happens to be another person (a bad kid, ha!), which I kind of like. It goes along with the idea of narrative therapy that YOU are NOT the problem, the PROBLEM is the PROBLEM. By showing children that the Worry Wizard is a completely separate entity from themselves, they are able to treat OCD as the enemy and not themselves.
ERP is then made into a game of sorts. Children (along with the help of an adult) create a list of exposures (with simple prompts to aid them). They then can practice their exposure at the click of a button. If there is a need for an imaginative exposure (creating a loop tape/recording), they can do that within this app as well. There are also built-in timers to remind users to practice their exposures and to record their anxiety levels (for the progress reports). It’s really easy to use, very self-explanatory.
The adult version is very similar to the child version except that it just tells it like it is. 🙂
The secret weapons (child version)/toolbox (adult version).
Oh my goodness, I absolutely loved this feature*. When you choose to practice an exposure, you set the timer for how long you’d like to do it. While you are practicing an exposure, you can access the secret weapons/toolbox area, which includes:
1. Reasons for fighting (both versions). A place where you can review and record your reasons for fighting OCD/the Worry Wizard.
2. Uncertainty agreement (adult version). Where you acknowledge that you cannot know things with certainty. This records the date that you “signed on” for this!
3. Relaxation (both versions). Listen to an exercise in muscle relaxation.
4. Motivational messages and inspirational quotes. You can even add your own!
5. Tips from other kids fighting the Worry Wizard. Obviously, this is in the children’s version. Loved it. The quotes were so good and meaningful and encouraging without being enabling at all.
6. Songs (child version). This included two songs for children (although there is a whole CD available on iTunes). I have to admit, one of the songs– “Worry Wizard”– made me cry listening to the lyrics. It just breaks my heart that children have to deal with this crippling disorder. They are so brave!
*When I was doing my own exposures, I was told to focus intently on them … I wonder how this toolbox jives with that, or if that was only my therapist’s method.
Live OCD Free User’s Guide
This is wonderfully written, very clear. If someone is choosing to do ERP on their own and without the guidance of a therapist, this user’s guide will be critical to their success. Since I have undergone CBT, I now find it fairly easy to recognize obsessions and compulsions– and to identify appropriate exposures. However, I would not have been able to do this if I hadn’t gone through ERP myself already. The prompts are very helpful (and OCs often know what things bring them the most anxiety), but this user’s guide will be a huge help in sorting through obsessions, compulsions, and exposures. I emailed with Dr. Mulcahy, and she said that sometimes people will meet once or twice with a cognitive-behavioral therapist just to set up their exposure hierarchy before attacking the actual exposures on their own. Even if you don’t have health insurance, I can see where this would be very helpful. If not, the user’s guide will assist in that matter.
This app makes it easy to see your progress. I love that. A visual reminder of how far you’ve come can go such a long way!
There are very, very few cons to this app. The graphics in the video of the Worry Wizard were not my favorite, and (of course) being a writer, I thought the story could have used a little polishing, but all in all, this app is phenomenal.
The cost is around $80, which at first seemed like a lot of money to me … but it’s really not. Not for what you get. An ERP experience for $80 is a bargain (even with awesome health insurance, I still probably paid about $300 out of pocket to meet with my cognitive-behavioral therapist). And the freedom to be gained through this process is priceless.
I imagine that CBT without the guidance of a therapist would also be more difficult, especially as there is less accountability, but the truth of the matter is that CBT takes a lot of commitment, no matter what. I have said it before and I will say it again, you know you are ready for CBT when the hell you’re experiencing daily is worse than the hell you’ll have to go through with CBT.
All said, I highly recommend this product.
I cannot say enough good about CBT/ERP and how it gave me back my life. Whether someone chooses to go the traditional route of seeking out a cognitive-behavioral therapist (note: NOT a talk therapist) or chooses to use this web app … or chooses to use both in conjunction with one another … I am 110% for it.
The important thing is that you pursue CBT.