5 days ago

trauma and OCD and teens


I really appreciate being able to join this forum for parents, and I will delete my post in the professionals section.

When I first heard about SPACE, I thought it sounded like good parenting for kids with mild/moderate general anxiety, but perhaps too simplistic for children/teens with severe OCD where parents are often caught up in accommodating SO many rituals. It's taken me a long time to come back around to it, and I basically only did because we are in crisis (severe quality of life impairment for my teenager) and I've tried everything else.


I'm a long-time early childhood educator and have also facilitated "connected parenting" classes in my community for over a dozen years - we've also raised our four kids (now all teens and young adults) with positive respectful parenting and education (ala folks like Alfie Kohn, Ross Greene and Peter Gray), and I've noticed that for myself and other parents who are philosophically non-punitive, it is rather difficult to buy-in to the often punitive and arbitrary limit-setting that is ERP/CBT, so instead, unfortunately, we accommodate. And, we accommodate for all the other reasons that parents do.


I really appreciated reading Dr. Lebowitz's books and knowing that I'm not alone with that strong instinct to do whatever is needed to protect one's child from harm and ease their suffering. I would've appreciated the perspective on collaborative parenting as well, and compassion for the other role (demanding parent) - I'm recently divorced after 24 years of struggling through parenting kids with anxiety/OCD, the blame and accusations pretty much broke us in the end.


I'm now connected with thousands of parents of kids with OCD and anxiety (facebook groups, etc.), and I noticed there are SO many parents out here longing for a non-accommodation plan that includes empathy, collaborative problem-solving, and respect. I'm so grateful to have found SPACE and I sure wish I lived near the Child Study Center at Yale or anywhere that offers a weekly appt. for parents.


My adolescent and I went to Mayo Clinic's 5-day intensive program for OCD earlier this year, and I was very surprised at the outdated information on discipline that was given to parents in their booklet. Many parents on our groups have reported that the expressions of judgement from therapists, teachers, family members, etc. and the resultant shame, have really stalled their ability to coach their kid, limit accommodations, etc. I think the SPACE approach will really empower these parents to better help their children, with it's built-in empathy and presumption of positive intent on all sides.


The other thing that comes up a lot in my online parenting support groups is post-traumatic OCD/anxiety disorders. And the idea that traditional ERP therapy can actually create more trauma for these kids, especially when it is implemented too quickly or with punishments.

We've done some (very informal) polls this year on the larger support groups and found that for kids who were already "spirited/anxious" types, a trauma or significant loss often seemed to bring out OCD symptoms. Sometimes, the parent experienced the trauma and grief as well, which made them less equipped to do ERP, and/or made them more sympathetic, which often turned into more accommodations.


I know the traumatic events in my own family (I am a lung cancer patient, had major thoracic surgery, several frightening ICU admissions, ambulance calls, etc.) have deeply effected my kids, especially the ones who were already more clingy/needy, and the idea that my time (alive, with them) is limited has also impacted my own willingness and ability to limit OCD accommodations effectively. I know these kids (mine, and others who have PTSD) need gentle loving care, empathy, etc. along with ERP interventions, but I have felt at a loss about what else to do. Neurofeedback, supplements, exercise, EMDR? It's clear now that my own trauma has unintentionally made things much worse for my hurting adolescent kid, by way of over-accommodation, and I'm ready to work hard on changing that, while still prioritizing our important parent-child connection and strong respectful relationships.


Thank you if you've read this far. I'm hoping to get involved with SPACE treatment sessions as soon as possible, whether online or in person.


I'm so glad to have this space to connect with you all and share stories and ideas and resources, and I'm eager for the release of the SPACE manual for parents!



4 days ago

Hi Emily,

So awesome that this parent forum was started By DR L. !!


I wanted to start by saying that I feel your overwhelming emotion in this post. You are an awesome, loving, caring mother who is fighting for her kids. How can you do better than that! Big hugs for you girl!

Our stories are incredibly similar. The toll on our lives,our health, her health, marriage and siblings has been huge. It's probably true of many of the parents that will read these posts. How much variation in the theme can there be? Sensitive / predisposed kids who develop not quite obvious avoidance patterns in early childhood ,maybe too young to definitively label ,and then reach puberty where the light switch gets flipped for us and intervention for them is met with resistance. Those years were hell for us. Heck, I started reading parenting books before they were born and continued on reading and I still messed it up! ha ha. Can you Love kids tooo much?? Obviously in hindsight and with the wisdom of Doc L. you can protect them too much..

I will tell my own story in another post so that maybe other parents can gain support . I know that reading your story was like a big hug for me. I felt relief, and sorrow and support and happiness all at the same time knowing that another family is reading this same material and is experiencing similar questions, doubt, and dismay as we navigate yet another treatment plan.

Every parent has their own timeline for an 'end game.' I personally had the random age of 25 in my head when I fully expected my kids to be launched and pretty independent. One is, one is not. "M" is 23 and I felt the tick tick tick of my timeline nearing its end. Combined with no improvement and lots of years "waiting" for appointments.. therapy ,more excuses and worsening symptoms I did yet another DAILY deep dive on the net and surfaced with SPACE, It was not an easy find. I found it under "Failure to Launch" (on RTOR.org) which her problem is.. but isn't.. (FTL can be due to so many differ reasons other than mental problems)But thank God it was because when I saw it my heart raced and thumped and dang if the light bulb didn't come on for me. BOOM I recognized my daughter Especially when she was young) in almost every scenario and example that Dr L wrote about in his literature. I recognized MYSELF also! I then understood WHY and HOW and what I needed to do to HELP her. He says its not too late.

Oh there was a ton of regret and sorrow and deep pain when I realized that I had allowed my child to avoid practicing the common coping skills that come with a regular childhood insults. I read parenting books and had rules and guidelines. We did not overly indulge. There were expectations. My kids are intelligent, organized, conscientious, good with money and perform all of their own tasks of daily living. But when it comes to dealing with difficult situations or anxiety... they struggle...one Mightily. When I look back it Could have been avoided! I was an anxious kid and still am as an adult. I was NOT protected by my parents, I had to learn to deal. Subconsciously (as Dr L referred to in his book) I think I was trying to deal her a better hand. Who knew that was not the right tactic.

We didn't know what we didn't know. I tried to shield them from the hassles of life. No counselor mentioned the word accommodation. I had no idea that my child at age 5 suffered with OCD for several years, until she informed me during a counseling session a few years ago at age 18. (She had one short lived recurrence at puberty,which she hid from us.).. The overwhelming Anxiety and Depression and Panic that she suffers was labeled everything but that. ( school refusal, school avoidance, treatment resistant depression, social phobia..) OK.. but having a kid that doesn't want to talk or thinks she knows better than the counselor or feels like the doctors, the teachers, her friends " "don't like me" Figuring out where to send her, what her main problem is, how can I help her has been a 2nd full time job for me. It has taken a huge toll on everyone, Frankly I feel like I have lost myself in this saga.

And here I find myself hopefully near the end of this journey . As painful as it has been for us.. it has been 100 times more painful for my daughter. I now feel empowered with some knowledge that will help me to help her.

This is the hardest thing I have ever had to do, To watch her truly suffer as I begin to withdraw some accommodation.


Hopefully other parents will share their stories as well. It so very helpful although I know its difficult to bare your soul. A No judgement zone. Just a support forum,


I will post my own story soon and hopefully will be able to add success stories along our way.


Please hang in there Emily! I was where you were a few years ago. There is time and hope to get these kids happy and productive. I know there aren't many providers of SPACE.. but as I read Dr L's 2 books and think and read again... its becoming more concrete.. and I feel like I know the basics on what to do. We must let them practice discomfort. I had to get to THIS POINT,, where we are in crisis.. and I know that I have given it my best shot... and that she is an adult. Those things give me strength. Reinforcement and guidance would be nice though. I still struggle as she texts her reasons and excuses.. ahhhhhhhh they sound soooo good! ha ha ........ I considered attending the 2 day Space clinic..Maybe if it comes my way here in NC.


I am an RN,, My life's work is accommodating and empathizing, Ha ha.. Its in my DNA... AVOID pain and discomfort LOL,, gees.. I NEED HELP :)


Good luck Emily..


Looking forward to future posts from you. ( Sorry this is so Longgggg... I have never had an opportunity,, and it has been such a long journey for us)




Laura M


PS. I have always heard and tried to intellectually latch on to the words " tough love" or " enabling"

But I never could.. now, " accommodation" that's a word I like, as explained by Dr L !







3 days ago

Thank you for posting all of this, Laura, I'm so glad to meet you, and that we can all support each other to best support our kids. I've read both of the books, and I'm ready to start, with or without a practitioner to help me (heck, I've worked as a parenting coach, I should be able to handle this). I have no idea which target problem to start with, as right now our days are filled with his compulsions/rituals (and my accommodations) for contamination OCD and they are ALL making things worse and adversely impacting our lives. :(

3 days ago

Hi Emily,

Yep.. murky waters for sure.. I myself have to keep reminding myself of the objective and I keep going back to the manual and reading for strength guidance. So for me.. I finally got to the point that

1. I am a loving .. supportive mother. No question there. No need to wonder if my kids know that. They know.

2. I cannot forced her into therapy.

3. My accommodation is hurting her chances of moving forward .


3. My accommodation is hurting her chances of moving forward


3 days ago


didnt get to finish that thought above.. it “ sent” somehow.. not the best in my phone... lol.

anyway.. as she grew older I have naturally begun decreasing accommodation in my own.. she handles her checking.. she makes her own appointments does her laundry and all other daily living stuff. I am trying not to do for her what she really should be doing for herself. Her main problem is now launching. So we are working on that., it’s very difficult. That’s all I can say.

But I keep reminding myself that I am only hurting her more by not letting her work through it. I told her she has to go through “ hard” to get to “ happy”.

I am being transparent with our actions and reasons as suggested by SPACE.

So. SPACE says keep the focus on the parent right?

Maybe you could start with a list of the way you feel like you are accommodating.. then start with something small.. stop it.. supportive statement...and explain why. We will all walk through fire..it’s our problem with feeling bad about letting our kids suffer a little that got us here ha ha!

All I know now is .. we are at the end of our game.. I truly feel that since she will not engage in therapy then all I have left is to stop my part in the play. I am actually quite impatient now to get this going .. and am trying to do baby steps...


Make a list.. start with one small thing. It’s OKAY if they melt down. Put on your Armour with me and let’s get to it! You got this girl!!





3 days ago


Here is a personal example..

Last time I made a family meal for a get together I was ordered to wear a shower cap during the prep. 😤.. well I was so darned happy just to get the entire family together I did just that.. as well as holding my hands up For Morgan to “ smell” the soap which she swears I didn’t use When washing my hands.. . hmmmm. After reading SPACE.. I will tell her I know it’s difficult for her to eat food prepped by others.. but if she wants to stay she will have to deal.. and “I am certain she can do this...“.. and I will be prepared for her choice.. stay or go. I can not control her. Only me.. and I am now willing to go through the necessary pain/ steps.. lol.. I have LOTS. of little examples like this that I now feel empowered to put straight! lots of examples I could tell you I would have done differently also when she was in her teens..

let her be late.. and deal with consequences

be left out of family gatherings due to lateness”

let her stay outside if she can’t agree on a restaurant with the rest of us.

let the police escort her to school if she cannot make it to class on time.

the list is long......

We accommodated alright.. to keep the peace... and all it brought was worsening clamor for years to come.


I hope they get the word out to parents all over the world.

kids that age are so resistant to counseling..

Parents are the ones that need the counseling!





New Posts
  • Because I don't have anyone in my area who has been trained in the SPACE approach, I wanted to inquire about possibly sponsoring attendance at the workshop in San Francisco for our wonderful local therapist. I am trying to avoid it being awkward or unprofessional to offer it. I was thinking that some other parents around the world might want to raise funds like this as well. We all spend so much money on private therapy (including those appointments that our treatment-resistant kids refuse to attend) and I think so many kids in our communities would benefit from more therapists and counselors and health practitioners being trained. I'm also very interested in online or teletherapy in the SPACE approach and would love to hear if any of you know anyone who is doing that. Also, I’m hosting a screening of Unstuck (the kids OCD movie) next month in Portland, OR, and I'd like to be able to share some materials with the parents and professionals who attend - a pamphlet perhaps, flyer about the upcoming trainings...can anyone direct me to something like that?
  • It’s good to have you here! Feel free to share anything - stories, ideas, questions or whatever is on your mind. Here you can start discussions, connect with members, reply to comments, and more. I created the parent forum to provide a place where parents can connect with each other and discuss anything relevant to being the parent of someone with anxiety, OCD, or other related disorders. Being the parent of a child or adolescent with elevated anxiety means coping with constant challenges and dilemmas. SPACE is one approach to navigating those challenges and helping children to overcome their anxiety. In SPACE, parents replace accommodation of a child's symptoms with supportive responses, ones that show the child both acceptance and validation of their genuine difficulty, as well as confidence in the child's ability to cope with tolerate the distress. I hope this forum is useful and helpful to parents who want to connect with others who share their interests and stories. And I hope that everyone will maintain a supportive attitude - not only toward their child, but to others on the forum as well. Remember that everybody has a lot in common, and everyone is also different. Again, welcome to the forum!