The Bergen 4-Day Method: Finally A Cure for OCD– or Just More Doubts?

The Bergen 4-Day Method for Treating OCD: Do We Finally Have a Cure – or Just More Doubts?

The International OCD Foundation’s 27th annual conference was held in Austin, Texas this year and attended by over 2,000 people. Despite a wide variety of talks, support groups, and lectures – one lecture in particular received much buzz and was talked about for weeks after: The Bergen 4-Day Method for treating OCD.

The clinical and research teams from Norway traveled to Texas to publicize their data and findings to the IOCDF community and also to promote their first United States satellite location in Houston, Texas. Along with the Bergen team came a handful of client panelists who spoke of their experiences after having completed the treatment protocol.

The talk the Bergen group gave was as impressive as their data: according to Bergen, more than 90% of clients in the pilot program “reliably improved” and “68% have remitted at 12 month follow-up” (Source: IOCDF Newsletter, Winter 2018). Client panelists illuminated this data with anecdotal stories of how the Bergen 4-Day Treatment helped them personally. Many of the panelists moved the audience to tears with their stories of struggle….and triumph. 

Like any new treatment protocol first being publicized, the Bergen group has not been without it’s questions and dissent. Some audience members asked why Bergen uses the word “cure” in their descriptions of the treatment’s efficacy when longitudinal studies have not yet been conducted to prove clients are “cured.” Others questioned if OCD even can be cured or if it is a chronic condition one learns to manage and live with. Some therapists revealed how much their clients are struggling with the news that there might be a 4-Day treatment program that could alleviate or even erase their OCD suffering – but it almost felt like a carrot being dangled in front of their nose: “You can’t have it.” And, when that carrot was dangling, it impeded treatment as the clients were left wondering if their OCD therapist was good ‘enough’ or if they were getting better ‘enough.’ 

Private practice clinicians were left wondering how the Bergen method can be applied to solo or small group private practices – and even what the Bergen 4-Day Method is: how is it any different than the exposure therapy (ERP) and motivational strategies most good OCD therapists already employ? How is different than other intensive programs like McLean’s OCDI program? What is the mechanism that apparently makes Bergen work so much faster and fully? One audience member even asked this question directly: “what’s your secret sauce?” to no clear answer.

In all, most audience participants were left with a sense of wonder and hope – but also as many questions as answers. We are curious to see how the data from the Houston pilot program turns out and if it’s as promising as the early data from Norway. Here’s hoping Bergen is on to something novel and has discovered a “cure” – or, at least, a more effective and efficient means of treating OCD. In the meantime, we wait and see.