Interview with Jon Hershfield MFT

Today I have the privilege of interviewing Jon Hershfield, MFT.  Jon is a MFT (Marriage and Family Therapist) who specializes in the treatment of OCD. He also is Associate Director at the UCLA Pediatric OCD Intensive Outpatient Program at Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital.  You can contact Jon at:


Jon Hershfield, MFT
10350 Santa Monica Blvd, #300, Los Angeles CA
[email protected]

 Interview with Jon Hershfield, MFT

Jon,  I would like to thank you for taking the time today for this interview.  I write a lot about OCD on my blog, and thought it would be beneficial for the readers of this blog who have OCD or are learning about OCD to hear from a professional who treats OCD on a daily basis.  Let’s get started!


1.  Can I please get your background?

I’m a licensed MFT (Marriage and Family Therapist) in California.  I am in private practice in Los Angeles and also recently became the associate director of the UCLA Pediatric OCD Intensive Outpatient Program at Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital.  For the previous three and a half years I treated OCD and related disorders at the OCD Center of Los Angeles.  How far back do you want to go?  I was raised by Jewish New Yorkers on a farm in Maryland.


2.  What made you become interested in treating OCD?

After 28 years of struggling with my own OCD, I finally buckled down and did cognitive behavioral therapy.  During that time I started contributing to online support boards and eventually ended up moderating one called Pure_O_OCD.  After recognizing that I was spending a lot of time trying to help strangers on the internet fight their OCD, I realized I was more passionate about this than my previous career.  I went to graduate school, got a masters in clinical psychology, sought out an internship where I could treat OCD and got licensed as an MFT.


3.  What challenges do you see with patients in treating OCD?

Insight and motivation are the two main ingredients in successful treatment.  Insight means the ability to recognize the space between YOU and your OCD.  It means understanding that you have a disorder and that the thoughts might not have to be connected to the behaviors you use to cope.  There is likely a chemical component to insight, but there is also a component of willingness to look inside and look differently.  CBT Is hard work and confronting your fears can be very painful.  Without motivation, and a belief that you deserve to get better, success is much harder to come by.


4.  Why is it hard to find OCD therapists?

This is not entirely clear.  I can tell you that in my graduate studies I had to take the one available course in CBT as an elective, which I fortunately heard about from a classmate.  The only OCD  course available was one I made up as an independent study.  So my guess is there are a lot of therapists who are being trained in other areas of psychology despite OCD being prevalent, treatable, and fascinating to work with.  That being said, there may be more access to OCD treatment providers than we assume now that technology allows therapists to practice within their whole state via online video like Skype.   So if there is even one ocd/cbt specialist in your state, you may be able to access treatment that way.  There is an excellent list of providers at


5.  Can you explain Mindfulness and how it is used to treat OCD?

Mindfulness is the ability to observe what the mind is doing without buying into the distortions and trickery that OCD uses to force significance on unwanted thoughts and feelings.  Mindfulness skill development is used in the treatment of OCD as a way to break down resistance to the presence of unwanted experiences and thus, the intensity of the urge to do compulsions.  Mindfulness practices, such as meditation, can also be used to train the mind to let go of a trapped, tortured OCD loop and return to a relaxed, non-judgmental state.


6.  Do you think there will be a cure for OCD?

There are a few problems with the word “cure” in this context.  OCD is a disorder.  What that means is it is out of order, an exaggerated state of something that is essentially normal – the presence of unwanted thoughts and feelings and the desire for relief from pain.  So when people say “cure” they sometimes mean the eradication of unwanted thoughts, which is not only impossible, but unhealthy.  On a research level, we understand OCD to be a chronic condition, which means it will wax and wane throughout life, so rather than “cure” we should be focusing on ways of minimizing impairment.  That may sound a bit disappointing though.  The truth is, if “cure” means being able to live a happy, fulfilling life free from having to do painful rituals, free to stop obeying the OCD, and free to pursue one’s goals and dreams, then we already have a cure because mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy does this.


7.  What advice do you have for someone struggling with OCD?

Become a student of your OCD.  Read books about OCD.  Know more about your OCD than your OCD knows about you.  Get help.  If you can’t access treatment or can’t afford treatment, use a combination of self-help workbooks and online discussion boards with professionals moderating them.  Remember that your belief about the obsession being unique and setting you apart from the rest of the world is actually a symptom of your disorder.  It is a common, treatable disorder and you are not alone.


8.  What can we as a community do to erase the stigma of mental                    illness (OCD) in this day and age?

I think there are a lot of ways people can get involved and support organizations that promote a positive, smart attitude about mental health.  I think bloggers like yourself and people who devote time to discussing OCD and disseminating helpful information about the disorder make a big difference.  On the person-to-person level, we have to stop calling each other crazy and stop mocking or being derogatory about suffering.  While this is how we are accustomed to dealing with discomfort, it is just as compulsive as whatever the person being made fun of is doing.


I would like to thank you again Jon for this great interview.  You have answered some questions that will hopefully help people that are struggling with OCD or know of someone who is struggling with OCD.  It is people like yourself that give me hope for the future of our mental health system.  Thank you for volunteering your time for people who don’t have access to a therapist in their area.  You are truly an inspiration to the OCD community.

Stay Strong everyone!








1350 Santa Monica Blvd., #300, Los Angeles, California

(424) 256-9312




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