Helping Someone You Love
Information for Friends and Family

A Contract Example

A cognitive behavior therapist who works with written plans or “contracts” can help you organize your thoughts and then put an “anti-OCD plan” together for the whole family. The therapist may have a sample form or blank template you can use to create your family contract.

Here is an example of the general process:

Family Contract Planning for the Sample Family

The Situation: Dad has OCD and can’t leave the house to go to work in the morning until he has questioned each family member multiple times about whether they have checked to make sure doors and windows are locked and the kitchen stove burners and all appliances are indeed turned off. He also checks the doors, windows and burners repeatedly. This can take hours.
The Problem: Family members repeatedly reassure Dad that they have checked the door and window locks as well as the stove burners and appliances throughout the house. They show him they are checking the doors and windows, the stove burners and appliances. (This behavior makes Dad feel better, but only for the short-term.)
The Goal: Everyone in the family wants Dad to stop the incessant checking behavior, and they all want to stop having to help him do it.
The Plan: Over the course of the next several weeks, the family will gradually decrease the number of times they check things and reassure him about safety. They will also change the way they interact (actions and dialogue). Dad will accept this course of action even though his anxiety over his safety fears will increase temporarily.
The Contract: Their cognitive behavior therapist helps them develop a written document that specifies their goals and gives them detailed strategies to get there: how much to decrease participation in Dad’s rituals at each point along a specific timeline. The therapist also helps them develop special wording to use to decrease reassurances and defuse Dad’s repeated questioning. In CBT therapy sessions, Dad agrees to perform exposure and response prevention (ERP) assignments (learned in CBT therapy sessions) at home within the timeline. Dad also understands that the reductions in family reassurances are a part of his ERP therapy.
The Review Together with Dad’s therapist, the family monitors progress. Adjustments to the contract timeline and tactics are made so that everyone is able to be successful.
The Reward The family agrees to periodic rewards for successfully following the contract. They decide on going out to dinner or a movie at the end of each week in which they are successful in completing the week’s contract tactics.

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