Session III: Treating OCD in the Context of COVID

Monday, March 8, 2021 – 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm EST
Drs. Peggy Richter, Justine Dembo, Marlene Taube-Schiff, Renato Ramos

OCD is a common but complex psychiatric condition that can be challenging to diagnose and treat effectively. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and pharmacotherapy are first-line treatments but require an OCD-specific approach for maximum efficacy. This focused workshop will briefly review the “basics” of OCD including diagnosis and how pharmacotherapy critically differs from treatment of mood disorders and other conditions. Key principles in CBT for OCD will be outlined, with the goal of enabling practitioners with limited time/experience to introduce CBT to patients with use of self-help materials.  This will be followed by a discussion of how to effectively support and optimize therapy using virtual platforms in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Use of smaller breakout rooms will provide some opportunity for discussion of attendees’ challenges with OCD in their individual practice settings.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Describe and recognize common OCD presentations
  2. Review the benefits and limitations of current first-line treatment options for OCD
  3. Outline a number of treatment options for patients who fail initial pharmacotherapy
  4. Discuss delivery of cognitive-behavioural therapy in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the era of virtual care


Margaret Anne (Peggy) Richter, MD, FRCPC is head of the Frederick W. Thompson Anxiety Disorders Centre at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto, and heads the first residential treatment program for OCD in Canada. She serves on the scientific advisory board of the International OCD Foundation and the Canadian BFRB Support Network. She was co-chair for the newly released Ontario Quality Standards for management of OCD and Anxiety Disorders. She is an internationally acclaimed speaker, presenting extensively to both professionals and lay audiences.




Justine Dembo, MD, FRCPC is a psychiatrist at the Thompson Anxiety Disorders Centre at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, and a Lecturer at the University of Toronto. She specializes in the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and related disorders, and conducts research in the areas of OCD and medical aid in dying. She is currently conducting a study using narrative therapy for treatment-resistant OCD.



Dr. Marlene Taube-Schiff completed her Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec. She then completed a post-doctoral internship at St. Joseph's Healthcare in Hamilton, Ontario where she specialized in providing assessment and treatment for individuals presenting with a wide range of anxiety disorders, including Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and depression. After that, she was a post-doctoral fellow at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, with a focus on cognitive behavioural therapy and cognitive mechanisms in depressive disorders. She has held positions at a variety of academic hospitals, including University Health Network and North York General Hospital. Currently, she is the team lead for the Intensive Treatment Program for OCD at the Frederick W. Thompson Anxiety Disorders Centre. She enjoys working with individuals with severe symptoms of OCD and helping them develop skills to fight their OCD and begin the path to wellness and recovery. She is also the co-director of clinical training for psychology students within the Thompson Centre, the inter professional education lead on the CPPD committee in the Department of Psychiatry at UofT and is an assistant professor within the Department of Psychiatry at UofT. Her research interests focus on program development, treatment effectiveness and quality improvement.

Renato Ramos MD, PhD is a staff psychiatrist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and an Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. He obtained his medical degree and completed his residency and clinical training in psychiatry from the University of Sao Paulo. He was a visiting research fellow at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh and the Department of Psychology, King´s College of London. He was an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Head, Laboratory of Psychophysiology and Neurophysiology at the University of Sao Paulo until 2017 when he later joined the Frederick Thompson Anxiety Disorder Centre. His research interests include the pathophysiology and treatment of OCD and other anxiety disorders.

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