Dr. Melissa Dufrene and Dr. Kristin Fitch, two of the founding members of the Louisiana OCD Association, have opened a new center, The Rise Center for OCD and Anxiety.
Their goal is to help address the shortage of specialized treatment services available for the OCD, a serious, chronic condition affecting an estimated 35,000 individuals in Louisiana.
“The absence of intensive treatment programs for OCD and related disorders is a huge problem in Louisiana,” said Dufrene and Fitch. “We are not aware of any specialty focused intensive programs for these conditions in the state. This means that when someone’s symptoms are too severe for traditional outpatient treatment they have to leave the state to access the care they need. Obviously, this is a huge strain on resources.”
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common, chronic, and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts and/or behaviors, creating symptoms that can interfere with all aspects of life, such as work, school, and personal relationships.
“We think many providers recognize that they are not making progress with an OCD patient,” said Dufrene and Fitch, “but continue working with them because they do not know where to send the patient or it is not feasible for them to travel out of state for an extended period for their treatment. We want Rise to become the solution to this problem.”
One size does not fit all in mental health,” said Dr. Dufrene. A given patient may benefit from a general behavioral health intensive outpatient program, she explained. However, individuals struggling with severe OCD are unlikely to make substantial progress in a similar program because major components of specialized treatments for OCD are missing.
The Rise Center will be the only one of its kind in this area and Dufrene and Fitch hope it will help resolve a critical shortage of intensive treatment for individuals suffering from OCD disorders.
“Rise is launching our first intensive program in January 2022,” the two psychologists said. “This group is geared towards college age individuals and will support them in making substantial gains during the holiday break when they are not distracted and stressed by academic obligations.”
Diagnostic interview data from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication estimated 1.2% of U.S. adults had OCD in the past year and the lifetime prevalence was 2.3%.
Drs. Dufrene and Fitch pointed out that this is 1 in 100 adults in any given year and 1 in 40 adults in their lifetime. Also, they note, the prevalence includes 1 in 200 kids each year.
The condition causes suffering and can often be serious. National survey data indicates that 14.6% consider their condition mild, 34.8% considerate it moderate, while half, 50.6%, rate their condition serious.
The Rise Center for OCD and Anxiety will help with reducing both of the most serious obstacles to the availability of effective OCD services, Drs. Dufrene and Fitch explained. They hope to help resolve the lack of specialty trained providers as well as the absence of intensive treatment programs in this geographical area.
“The fact is,” they note, “that many providers advertise that they treat OCD and related disorders, yet few have advanced training in the most efficacious implementation of exposure and response prevention, the gold-standard treatment approach.”
Dufrene and Fitch recognize that many providers lack this special training due to limited resources, time and money, or for other reasons do not engage in specialized training for OCD conditions. “In response we have partnered with The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Xavier University to serve as a practicum site for their students. We will also offer a post- doctoral fellowship in 2022.”
The new Rise Center for OCD and Anxiety will specialize in the treatment of obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive spectrum disorders, and other related conditions, including Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Specific Phobias, Social Anxiety Disorder, Body Dysmorphic Disorder, Hoarding Disorder, Body-Focused Repetitive Disorders, and Illness Anxiety Disorder.
Drs. Dufrene and Fitch continue their work to inform and educate practitioners about this specialized training. On behalf of OCD Louisiana, they host a monthly virtual consultation group for professionals on OCD/OC Spectrum Disorders. “In the future, we plan to offer additional professional networking and consultation opportunities, as well as training programs through Rise and our partnerships with local and national organizations,” they said.
“This peer consultation group provides an opportunity for mental health practitioners and trainees in our region to discuss cases and learn about relevant resources to provide evidence-based treatment to individuals with OCD and OC Spectrum Disorders. Professionals in other healthcare disciplines are welcome. There is no cost associated with the group.
“Evidence-based treatment of these disorders, across the developmental spectrum, will primarily be discussed with reference to cognitive behavioral and relational frame theories, and relevant psychotherapies including exposure and response prevention, acceptance and commitment therapy, and habit-reversal therapy, among others.”
Dr. Melissa Dufrene is a licensed and Board Certified clinical psychologist. She completed a bachelor of science in psychology at Louisiana State University, and earned her PsyD in clinical psychology from The School of Professional Psychology at Forest Institute in 2012. She has trained in a wide range of facilities, including inpatient and residential hospitals, schools, community health centers, and private practices. Dr. Dufrene gained extensive training and experience in OCD-spectrum disorders during her predoctoral internship at Rogers Memorial Hospital in Wisconsin. While at Rogers, Dr. Dufrene spent significant time working at the presidential OCD treatment program
Dr. Kristin Fitch is a licensed clinical psychologist. For her undergraduate studies, Dr. Fitch attended Boston University, where she earned her bachelor of arts degree in psychology and was introduced to research in OCD. She completed her doctoral studies in clinical psychology at Florida State University. Her graduate research focused on hoarding disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder, including her master’s thesis on information processing deficits in nonclinical hoarding and dissertation research evaluating an exposure-based treatment. She received her PhD in 2015 after completing her predoctoral internship at the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System with a specialty in posttraumatic stress disorder. Dr. Fitch specializes in the treatment of OCD, body dysmorphic disorder, hoarding disorder, and illness anxiety disorder using behavioral or exposure-based interventions integrated with mindfulness and acceptancebased approaches.
Drs. Dufrene and Fitch first met as part of a team of Louisiana mental health professionals working together to form an official affiliate of the International OCD Foundation serving the state. The successful creation of OCD Louisiana (https://ocdlouisiana.org/) highlighted what the founding members explained what they already knew––the demand for treatment of OCD and related conditions greatly surpasses the availability of the few professionals in the region trained to work with this population. Drs. Dufrene and Fitch found Dr. Suzanne Chabaud, director of the OCD Institute of Greater New Orleans, and collaborated with other OCD specialists in the region, and founded OCD Louisiana, an official affiliate of the International OCD Foundation.