A randomized controlled trial of a brief family intervention to reduce accommodation in obsessive-compulsive disorder
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Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is associated with substantial impairment across a number of life domains. Recently increased interest has been focused on the bi-directional relationship between OCD and family processes, particularly a subset of family reactions to OCD symptoms that are termed "accommodation." Accommodation consists of any changes in family members' behavior aimed at preventing or reducing the patient's rituals or their distress related to OCD symptoms. For example, family members may provide patients with supplies they need to ritualize (e.g., extra soap), or may engage in rituals themselves (e.g., excessive washing). Previous research has indicated high levels of accommodation are associated with more severe OCD symptoms and functional impairment on the part of patients, and may interfere with the first line psychosocial treatment for OCD, a form of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) consisting of exposure (to cues provoking obsessions) and ritual prevention (ERP). Thus, the aims of this research project were to develop and test a brief intervention focused on reducing accommodation in the family members of adult OCD patients with the aim of facilitating the implementation of ERP. Eighteen patient and family member dyads participated in the study. All patients received a course of standard individual ERP for OCD. Family members were randomized to either the intervention group or a control group that did not receive any intervention. The goals of the two-session intervention were to identify current accommodation behaviors and provide alternative ways of responding to OCD symptoms. Patients and family members were assessed at baseline and regularly throughout the 25-week study. Results revealed that the intervention successfully reduced accommodation with a large effect size. Patients whose family members received the intervention showed greater levels of symptom reduction than patients whose family members had not. Hierarchical regression analyses revealed that change in family accommodation from baseline accounted for a significant amount of variance in later OCD symptoms. These results suggest that this intervention successfully enhanced the outcomes of standard CBT including ERP for adults with OCD. The findings support further exploration of this intervention in larger samples and in other diagnostic groups where accommodation is likely to occur.