Drawing from her own personal experiences, Broward-native Dr. Ilisa Kaufman followed her passion for helping others into a career a psychologist. “I went through personal struggles with loss and it really inspired me to want to work with others,” says Kaufman, who felt her career calling even as a teen. Today, the mom of three works with patients of all ages across South Florida who struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or an obsessive compulsive-related disorder. “I saw how cruel this disorder can be; how the sufferers are held prisoners in their own minds and are not able to break free,” says Kaufman. “The idea of helping unlock them felt so necessary.” Her work with those patients is what spurred Kaufman to create the “Tear OCD Apart” campaign, bringing awareness to both the disease and it’s treatment.
In her practice, Kaufman employs a therapy known as ERP or Exposure and Response Prevention. “I started working with the OCD population ten years ago and I realized that exposure response prevention is the key to getting better,” she says. “That’s when I became really interested in ERP.” In ERP, the therapist will actually separate the obsession from the compulsion. For instance, a compulsive hand washer will touch something they see as “dirty” with the therapist there to prevent them from moving on to the compulsion (hand-washing). “When you prevent a compulsion, over time the obsession gets better,” says Kaufman. “Anxiety increases but then it will come back down so they can learn to function without the compulsion. You’re retraining your brain.”
Tearing Apart OCD
As a dedicated advocate for OCD patients, Kaufman had been brainstorming ways to bring awareness to the cause when she was struck by the idea of drawing from her own therapies. From there, Kaufman created the Tear OCD Apart campaign, designing two bracelets, one with an “O” and there other with “CD.” “I was walking around my neighborhood and I was thinking of how I could use something to symbolize OCD,” she says. “I wanted to create a physical symbol that would represent the need to tear apart the obsessions from the compulsions. The whole idea came to me. You put the O on one wrist and the C on the other. When you are feeling stuck together, you can break up the idea.”
After launching the bracelets on her Instagram page (@ilisakaufman), Kaufman partnered with the International OCD Foundation to spread the word, even distributing them to attendees at the IOCDF Conference in Washington, DC this past July. For others, Kaufman is happy to ship out bracelets with the promise that wearers will post images on their social media with her hashtag: #tearingocdapart. “It’s really all about bringing awareness,” she says. “I want all people to have the knowledge that if you suffer from OCD, ERP can help.”