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Intensive Group Program for OCD

The Intensive Group Program is a 3-day therapy (from Friday to Sunday) in which we work in group on the individual cases of the participants with the aim of locating those triggering elements that led to the development of OCD. This is essential to create the internal conditions of predisposition to change. 

This program is directed by Damián Ruiz, director of IPITIA, with the assistance of members of the center’s team of psychologists and monitors specialized in movement activities.

In it, we will look for keys to improvement and possible external activities that can facilitate the improvement of the disorder for each of the attendees. In addition, we will carry out both spoken and physical group exercises that help understand and, in some way, unblock the instinctive part and emotional expression that, in most cases, accompanies this disorder. 

The objective is to finish the intensive program with a clear idea, at an individual level, of what is happening, why it is happening and what can be done to improve.

For those who wish, it can also be done individually.

What is the Group Intensive Program

The Group Intensive consists of 3 days (from Friday to Sunday), in which the main objective is the work of unblocking the nervous system, trapped in repeated thoughts, in the performance of mental or physical rituals, and in anxiety. In short, in fear. In this unlocking phase, patients are intensively immersed in a program that explores and activates all areas of the human personality, both mental and physical.

The IPITIA psychologists and a series of professional specialists in different areas guide patients towards the activation of the repressed elements of the nervous system, whose unblocking is the basis for achieving future improvements in terms of reducing obsessive symptoms.

A combination of Analytical and Experiential elements converge intensively in the creation of an essential therapeutic experience to integrate the necessary changes to reduce anxiety.

Theoretical foundations of the Group Intensive

The IPITIA method is an Analytical-Experiential methodology because it begins with a deep analytical exploration of the causes of the problem. From there, the psychologist and the patient generate a series of responses based on real experience that allow the person’s nervous system to be unblocked, training it to face a life without symptoms.

Carl Gustav Jung’s Analytical Psychology, and Ethology (study of animal behavior) are our main references in the analysis and intervention phase, since they represent the theoretical foundations and the basis of the effectiveness of our methodology. Even so, we also integrate elements of Theodore Millon’s Psychosociobiology, Alexander Lowen’s Bioenergetic Analysis and other references.

Normally the different psychological currents propose a certain vision of the human being, and under that prism, they treat all kinds of disorders. Our methodology follows the reverse process: based on the need to find the best response to OCD, we take advantage of the most effective elements of each trend at the most appropriate time of treatment. It is therefore an Integrative proposal based on the specific treatment of Anxiety disorders.

During the 5 days of intensive treatment, Ipitia’s psychologists lead the patient through a deep exploration, both narrative and symbolic, of their life and the factors that determined the development and maintenance of OCD. It will alternate with practical, physical and symbolic exercises; and with the overcoming of challenges and real experiences that allow the unlocking of these factors.

Analysis and Experience are continuously combined in the intensive program in order to reduce the anxiety responsible for obsessions and compulsions and to individualize and begin to unblock the elements of the patient’s life that maintain the problem.

Why to do Group Therapy?

Intensive Group Therapy is a therapeutic modality that can, in a large number of cases, represent a fundamental and sometimes indispensable tool in the process of reducing the anxiety responsible for obsessions and compulsions.

In a group context, completely different elements move with respect to a dual context, and even neurobiological aspects that are impossible to work on directly in individual therapy are activated.

At Ipitia we have always worked with the idea of ​​an Immersive Therapy, which encompasses all aspects of the human being, with the aim of bringing the person back to life. And there is no life if there is no contact and exchange with other people.

As Aristotle said, the human being is a “social animal”: if we do not help people to function naturally in social environments, some elements of their psyche can remain anchored in fear, preventing the person from connecting with many aspects of its primary nature; and thus end up living a planned life (obsessions, compulsions, constant doubts).

The importance of the Group in the Unblocking phase of the Nervous System

As mentioned above, the social aspect of obsessive disorder is of fundamental importance in its development, in its maintenance and, therefore, in its possible cure. Specifically, we are going to detail some of the elements that allow Group Therapy to have a determining influence on the patient’s progress and the progressive reduction of obsessive symptoms.

– Different obsessions, similar personalities. Although we are well aware that each case is different and each story is unique, thanks to our research and clinical experience we have been able to isolate personality factors and life events that recur very frequently in people who have developed an obsessive disorder. During group therapy, participants realize that, despite having completely different obsessions from other patients, they share personality traits, life fears, conceptions of risk, family histories. In this way, the symptom loses importance, while those elements acquire importance, which are the ones that need to be worked on and truly unblocked in order to begin to overcome an obsessive disorder. Ipitia’s methodology is not based on working on the symptoms, but on their causes, and in group therapy it becomes clear why.

The gaze of others. The vast majority of patients with obsessive disorder are concerned about “what others will say” or “what others will think”. They tend to repress behaviours, thoughts, or desires based on what they believe others expect of them. It is as if the gaze of others is installed in their consciousness and has the power to condition them from within. Working in a group in a safe environment under the supervision of an experienced psychologist provides the possibility to directly influence this dysfunctional mechanism. Acquiring greater freedom from the “gaze of others” is one of the goals of group therapy.

Social norms and Overself. At birth, the child is unaware of the outside world, responding only to his or her basic internal impulses. Over the years and with contact first with parents and then with the outside world, an idea is formed of what is “right” and what is “wrong”, of what to say and what not to say, in short, of what social norms are. This whole set of beliefs and norms has been called the “Overself” by some psychologists. Due to life events, the Overself of patients with obsessive disorder tends to be very strict, punishing, and limiting, so that the more instinctive/pulsive part is lost in excess over time. Working in a group makes this belief system more flexible, redefining the concept of freedom and transgression in a social environment, thus reducing the anxiety responsible for obsessions and compulsions.

The Loneliness of OCD. Many people with an obsessive disorder have experienced extreme loneliness over the years. Sometimes the fears are “unconfessable”, create shame and make one feel weak. Many of our patients do not feel understood by anyone and end up hiding both the illness and the associated moods from everyone. Group therapy helps to alleviate this suffering, as it is possible to meet people with similar stories who are struggling to overcome the problem, to understand that what is happening to them is not “rare” and to feel that there are solutions. Meeting a person who is further along the therapeutic path and providing support during therapy allows one to become aware of the progress made, and meeting a person who is further along allows one to see that there is hope. This encounter is necessary and positive in any case and is one of the goals of group therapy.

Support network. Patients suffering from an obsessive disorder often feel lonely in general, not only with regard to the obsessive problem. Although it is not compulsory, group therapy provides the possibility of generating a support network that in many moments can be extremely useful in generating ideas, new habits and openness to new social environments.

Social mirror. The people around us in our daily lives tend to have a stable idea of us. Just as it is difficult to change, it is also difficult for others to see and accept our changes. This way of “pigeonholing” people is a natural tendency in any environment, but it is also a tendency that makes it difficult to change and to bring out parts of the personality that need to be released in order to overcome OCD. Group therapy provides the possibility of a new “social mirror”, in which to construct oneself in a different way, freer, more connected with the essence, and stripped of the prejudices of the environment to which the patient is accustomed, in order to be able to do so, later on, at any time in his or her life.

A bridge between Individual Therapy and real life. One of the objectives of any Individual Therapy is that the patient develops the ability to transfer his or her learning to his or her daily life, with the consequent creation of a different lifestyle. Sometimes the leap between individual therapy and “real life” is complicated and scary. A therapeutic group symbolically represents a small portion of the world out there, which is the one the patient wants and has to learn to live without fear if he/she wants to reduce the anxiety that underlies the obsessions. For this reason, Group Therapy as we understand it in Ipitia constitutes a bridge between what the patient works individually with his psychologist and his life outside the Therapy, since all the elements of real life are worked in a symbolic way, represented by the other participants, and that is why we suggest its complementation.

What will the Intensive Group Program be like?

 

IPITIA psychologists and expert professionals from different disciplines collaborate under the supervision of the management team to provide an immersive experience of unlocking, experience and analysis. The specific requirements of the patient and the peculiarities of the specific case serve as a guide for the Ipitia management team to create a totally personalized program of great intensity, with the aim of unblocking the nervous system trapped in obsession and compulsion. Although the flexibility and customization of the Intensive Program are fundamental elements of its effectiveness, there are conceptual elements that constitute its structure, and that, despite being able to vary in content, timing and duration, are present in most cases:

Analysis and diagnosis of causative and maintenance factors. Analytical and diagnostic work is essential to get to know in depth the deficit areas, whose activation and development will provide a reduction of the internal conflicts responsible for anxiety. On each day of the Intensive Program there are hours dedicated to the exploration and analysis of these areas: the reason is that, as a result of the intensity of the exercises and the drive activation that we propose daily, new elements arise constantly and they need to be processed. The analytical phase provides the possibility of experientially understanding the causative and maintenance factors that need to be intervened with the help of our professionals.

Objetivos y resultados de la terapia TOC

Symbolic activation. This tool represents and trains the connection between internal (emotions, beliefs) and external (behaviors, attitudes) life. During the hours of symbolic activation, under the direction of Damián Ruíz, the patient faces his fears in an innovative, forceful and effective way. Its objective is to expand the patient’s psychic space and work on the repressed elements through symbolic representations of the traumas, the repressed elements and their overcoming.

Instinctive activation. One of the most frequently repressed and least expressed emotions in patients with OCD is rage, or, better said, the aggressive drive. The aggressive drive refers to the ability to fight for what we want, to express dissonant opinions, to say no. It is not a metaphor, it is a biological reality: the repression of these elements is responsible for neuroses that can become obsessive. But this can be trained.

 

Emotional Activation. One of the characteristics that people with OCD usually have is the limited ability to express what they feel. Normally negative emotions, transgressive thoughts, lightheartedness and even happiness can turn into anxiety. Through techniques derived from theater and psychodrama, a professional from the sector will guide the patient through representations of everything that they have not been able to express until now, with the aim of activating these dimensions and using them in a second moment in their lives.

Body Activation. It is very rare for patients with OCD to have a smooth relationship with their body. Rigidity ends up becoming an element not only mental, but also physical. Both at the level of judgment about oneself and lack of freedom of movement. With techniques derived from dance, African dance and free movement, a specialized professional will help the patient to feel the body and express their movements. It is not about dancing, it is about feeling and accompanying the movement from the primary instinct, without the mind obstructing this process, which is what in many cases the nervous system of a person with OCD does not allow.

A progressive recovery of the Instinct

 

The aforementioned therapeutic tools vary in content and timing of the Intensive Individual Program, but they are specifically designed to progressively prepare the person to recover the adaptive biological activation (Instinct) that is absent or deficient in those who suffer from OCD. We accompany patients from the depths of themselves to real life, creating a path focused on the challenges of the present and the future and not on the disease.

Using a metaphor taken from the book by Damián Ruíz (Freeing the monkey, saving  the princess), it is like taking in a wounded animal, exploring what is happening to it (Analysis), and training it (Activation) and then returning it to its natural habitat, at first accompanied (Individual Therapy), and later, once his instinct has recovered, alone (Goal Planning). This is what we call the Ethological approach. And don’t be surprised or offended by the metaphor: we share 98.5% of our DNA with monkeys.

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