Richard R. Thomas, Jr., PsyD, is a 2010 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, Seattle.

Dissertation Committee

  • Melissa Kennedy, Ph.D. (Committee Chair)
  • Bruce Duthie, Ph.D., ABPP (Committee Member)
  • Sarah Baxter, Ph.D. (Committee Member)


obsessive-compulsive disorder, support group, qualitative, phenomenological

Document Type


Publication Date



This qualitative phenomenological dissertation utilizes the empirical descriptive phenomenological method, a modified Husserlian (1931) approach developed by A. P. Giorgi (1975, 1985, 1997) in order to lend voice to a vulnerable population of eight (four men and four women) adult Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) sufferers while also gleaning a greater understanding of their in vivo (or lived) experience. Though extensive quantitative research into the disorder exists, this study utilizes the words of the participants and searches for emergent themes amongst their collective experience. This study addresses the treatment gap of this crippling disorder, increases community awareness, and allows for emergence of positive psychology themes. Results include situated descriptions of each participant, the emergence of six significant themes: Phenomenology of Symptoms, Experience with Treatment, Coping and Resiliency, Interpersonal Relationships, Co-morbidity, and Support Group Attendance, and a collective structural statement of their overall experience. Though severity of symptomatology varied amongst the participants, an overwhelming and pervasive sense of doubt, mistrust, and lack of control over one‘s own thoughts, feelings, and/or behaviors permeated the data. In addition, participants described feelings of personal shame and stigma from living with their disorder. Furthermore, all displayed coping mechanisms skillfully adapted to their particular personalities and symptomatology. Unexpectedly, all participants included in this study were involved in a support group at the time of their interview, leading to rich and detailed description of their experiences at both personal and collective levels. Support group participation clearly benefited all participants in providing a safe and accepting environment in which to share their experiences, learn the experiences of others, and gain perspective on their disorder. Furthermore, support group helped them to form community, learn about current 'best treatment' standards, and receive psycho-education and short-term exposure-response prevention interventions from mental health professionals directly tailored to their symptomatology.