Dr. Kate Truitt & Associates

Related Resources

For The Havening Techniques®

A Havening Exercise for Immediate Anxiety Relief: CPR for the Amygdala®

In this guided meditation, Dr. Kate will demonstrate the process of Creating Personal Resiliency to help soothe your anxious brain. You will learn how to practice CPR for the Amygdala®, which engages the self-havening touch, a practice mentioned in past videos. Dr. Kate will invite you to turn inward and notice/rank an experience of distress or disturbance that has continued to cause ruminating anxiety or worry from your Amygdala, or a physiological experience of tension or stress.

She will then walk you through visualizing a personal journey that activates all your senses and will use breathing exercises to further enhance relaxation. This calming video will take you to a safe space within your mind’s eye where you can appreciate the beauty of what your very own visualization can create.

Learn How to Harness The Power Of Your Brain To Create Resilience Through Creating Possibilities!

Did you know our brain is capable of growing and changing across the course of your life? This concept is called neuroplasticity. We have the ability to actually train our brain into an empowered and resilient state.

In this video we will explore why the brain loves to answer questions and how we can harness our brain’s natural curiosity to create actionable change. Learn how to use the Creating Possibilities Protocol and begin to design your world!

Why Do We Worry? Do We Need Worry? And What To Do About It?

Did you know that worry actually does have utility? It’s a yellow flag to our system that says  Worry will grow when we don’t pay attention to that flag and begin to create an action plan. In this video we will explore how to understand the reason behind our worry (finding the WHY) so we can be empowered to start taking action. The goal of worry is to make us pay attention to something in order to make us take a step to change whatever the brain is noticing as a concerning piece of data.

What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) & How Do We Treat It? w/ Dr. Yolanda Céspedes

In this interview, Dr. Kate Truitt begins by asking Dr. Yolanda Céspedes to break down what OCD entails. Dr. Yolanda explains that OCD is comprised of two distinct experiences: obsession and compulsion. Obsession is not always thoughts, it can also include images or urges that are unwanted and intrusive. The compulsion alleviates the obsession, but there is danger in the short-term effectiveness.

Dr. Kate then asks Dr. Yolanda to give us some examples of obsessions and their compulsions. Dr. Yolanda begins with a common obsession with OCD: the fear of contamination from dirt, germs, disease, and illness. With this obsession, a compulsion could be washing hands repeatedly. A snowball effect can occur and lead to more and more time and particular rituals. A less common obsession is the fear of harm, or intrusive thoughts or images of hurting someone. The compulsion that follows could be avoiding potential weapons or repeatedly checking in.

Dr. Kate goes on to ask Dr. Yolanda what treatment looks like for OCD, and she explains that OCD at its core is about uncertainty and doubt. Exposure and response prevention helps to break the cycle of obsession and compulsion and allows the brain to rewire itself. Havening techniques can help manage in the moment stress and calm down our brain, while building resiliency and a sense of agency.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Getting Unstuck from the Cycle

By Drs. Kate Truitt & Yolanda Céspedes

Do you know someone who is precise about everything? They are always on time, every hair, every wardrobe element is in place, and they have a to-do list that they painstakingly create for the week and follow it to the letter. We often hear people like this referred to as “OCD” or “being OCD,” implying that they are suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder.


They are not. Being precise, meticulous, highly organized, and creating control are not typical obsessive-compulsive behaviors—quite the contrary. In fact, obsessive/compulsive disorder is exemplified by a lack of control. It is a condition that traps people in recurring cycles that can paralyze them and prevent them from fully participating in their lives.

What is OCD?

As the name indicates, OCD consists of two major components: obsessions and compulsions. The obsessions include thoughts, images and urges that trigger feelings of fear that something bad will happen—that harm will come to us or someone else, or that we will forget something important, or perhaps that something is inherently wrong with us. When we suffer from OCD the feelings that invade our brains are intensely uncomfortable, unwelcome, highly intrusive, and seemingly uncontrollable. People experiencing these obsessions are left feeling a sense of fear, dread, or disgust, or sometimes simply perceiving that something is “not right.”

Some common obsessions include:

  • fears of contamination (dirt, germs, disease)
  • fears related to safety (of harming someone or being harmed)
  • a need for symmetry or order
  • inappropriate thoughts or urges


Compulsions are the second element of the disorder. They are either physical or mental responses to the obsessions. They are the things we do to avoid a consequence we dread, a worry or fear, or to “set things right.” They are intended to bring feelings of relief and safety, but there is a problem with that, which we will get into later.

Some common compulsions include:

  • repeatedly washing or cleaning
  • checking things like whether appliances are turned off or doors are locked
  • ordering or arranging items


The list above consists of compulsions that can be observed, but there are some that are not so obvious, like saying a prayer to drive away a disturbing thought or image in your mind. Others might be rumination on past events, scanning their memories for information to reassure themselves about whether they picked up that toy from the stairs or turned the burner off, or perhaps whether something they said to the last person they saw was not totally inappropriate.

Striving for inner reassurance is not often considered by people to be a compulsion, compared to the more outward forms of repetition and less-than-preferable engagement. Just because the OCD cycle is not engaging a person in physical activity that we can be seen, it is still sapping valuable time and energy from their lives, and it can affect others directly. People suffering from OCD do not always keep their reassurance-seeking behaviors bottled up—they go looking for it from outside sources, such as talking with a specialist, conducting their own research, or engaging with a trusted relative or friend. That last behavior is especially common in children with OCD and is often how family members get pulled into the OCD experience. The OCD can become almost like another family member that is setting the rules for everyone, telling them all where they can’t go and what they can’t do and why.

The Problem With Compulsions

If there is one thing positive that can be said for compulsions, it is that they actually work…


…in the moment.


Compulsions are very effective at bringing temporary relief, which brings us to the bad news—that word temporary. People get “stuck” in OCD, because if they know if they practice the compulsions enough, they can keep the obsessions at bay. This begins to create a cycle that can be as tough to break as any addiction you can imagine.


You touch a dirty doorknob or see an image in your mind of a traumatic experience in your life. As soon as that distress begins to creep in or downright barges in, it is natural for you as a human to seek relief for your discomfort, and quickly. So, you wash your hands, or you say a prayer and you feel better. Then later, you touch another dirty surface, and the distress comes back just as strong as before, because the compulsion did not give you long-term relief, so you engage in it again, and the cycle continues.


Often, the cycle begins to snowball. You touch what you perceive to be a dirty surface again and the obsession returns, so you assume your washing routine must be losing its effectiveness. Maybe washing your hands for two minutes was not enough, and you should wash them for five minutes this time. You touch the doorknob again and the obsession returns. Perhaps if you tried a different soap? Still, the obsession returns. Maybe if you try rubbing them harder or in more of a circular motion then the obsession won’t return…and on and on it goes.


The first step toward breaking the OCD cycle is by recognizing and understanding it. And the good news about the OCD cycle is that there is a way to break away from it and find long-term relief! It’s called Exposure and Response Prevention, or ERP.

How do we Break the Cycle?

OCD is a condition arising out of uncertainty. If you worry you are dirty or contaminated, then the topic, or content, of the obsession is contamination. But the real issue when it comes to OCD is not the actual content, but rather not being able to tolerate the doubt associated with that content. Your mind is not saying, “If I don’t wash my hands, I’ll get sick.” What it’s really saying is, “If I don’t wash my hands, I’ll feel uncertain.”

This points out the need to shift the perspective from the content of the obsession to the need for certainty and predictability. This shift in viewpoint allows space for alternative responses. If you are trying to prevent illness and death, you are in survival mode, which is difficult to manage. But shifting the focus to trying to prevent uncertainty and keeping everyone safe is less dangerous and scary—something you can more easily control. It is really about you learning to tolerate discomfort, which gives you more agency. “I’m not trying to keep everyone safe; I’m trying to tolerate doubt, and that’s something I can rewire my system to do.”


You can rewire your system to tolerate doubt because your brain is already wired to do that. If you own a car and you aren’t in it right now, you probably aren’t worried much that it is still sitting out there where you parked it. It’s possible that it’s no longer there but we don’t dwell on it because we can tolerate that doubt. That same ability can be extended to the content related to a cycle of OCD.


The “E” in ERP is how we re-wire the system and break the OCD cycle—through Exposure to the triggering content that causes those uncomfortable feelings. That may sound a little scary, because exposure is what takes us down the rabbit hole of OCD—right? The difference with ERP is that we do this in very manageable, small doses so it doesn’t overwhelm the person.


With ERP, instead of engaging in a compulsion, we practice how to “prevent the response” by learning to tolerate the distress without responding to it. It sounds a bit difficult at first, but with repeated practice, the brain learns that discomfort is temporary and survivable, even though it’s uncomfortable in the moment. And over time, the brain’s alarm system rewires itself and becomes less reactive.

Why does ERP work?

ERP works through habituation. In psychology this is defined as “the diminishing of a physiological or emotional response to a frequently repeated stimulus.” For a simpler explanation, consider the last time you dipped your feet into a cold pool. After a few minutes, your body adjusts to the temperature and the water no longer feels quite as cold. As you step deeper into the pool, you again feel the discomfort of the cold water. And again, in a few minutes, your body adjusts. This is something your body and mind are designed to do. Just as your body can learn to tolerate cold water and not respond to it, you can learn to experience your obsession without responding to it.

As I mentioned before, exposure to the thing that is setting you off sounds a little scary, but just as with the cold-water example, with ERP we are exposing you a little at a time. At the same time, we are reframing each exposure in your mind as an opportunity to come closer to wresting control back into your hands. Also, the exercises or “games” that we employ in ERP are designed collaboratively, with you choosing what they are, and what you are (or are not) ready to take on.

Research and evidence show that ERP is extremely effective in treating OCD.  We also use mindfulness techniques and the self-havening touch as added support, which you can do as well. These strategies can be part of a brain care program—things that you can practice every day to help your brain learn to stay calm and present and become resilient in the face of stress. In the sidebar of this article, you will find mindfulness exercises that employ the havening touch, such as CPR for the Amygdala and Creating Possibilities, which you can practice to help you shift to a different mindset and build lasting resilience.

Sometimes we experience events in our lives that get “stuck” in our brains. Our amygdala, which we call “Amy,” holds onto these things because she thinks they’re important for our survival and doesn’t want us to forget them. These exercises offer a way to target these “sticky” events and help them get “unglued,” and can be extremely supportive of that brain rewiring I mentioned earlier. As you gain control over OCD and of your life, mindfulness and havening are ways to help yourself to continue to navigate the world from a place of strength and resiliency.