If there’s one thing Chrissie Hodges is an expert in, it’s helping people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) feel less alone. If you’ve seen her YouTube videos about intrusive thoughts, you know what I mean. She will talk about anything related to OCD to spread awareness.
But she’s not an expert in just one thing! Chrissie connects people with OCD to skilled therapists who treat OCD, and she bridges a gap between therapy and everyday life as a peer support specialist.
In 2018 Chrissie launched OCD Gamechangers, an event that has grown in leaps and bounds already. It’s one more way Chrissie brings people together and drives home the message that people with OCD are not alone and that there is hope for a rich and fulfilling life.
Tell us about OCD Gamechangers. What is it, and what inspired you to start it?
I felt inspired to start OCD Gamechangers a few years ago when I was leaving the IOCDF conference in San Francisco. I get so much energy and inspiration from being around the community and the other OCD advocates, and I didn’t want to wait a full year to see everyone together again. There was a niche that needed to be filled in the advocates community with networking, support, and sharing each other’s work and projects. So many people were doing wonderful work, but there is not a platform that elevates their hard work. I thought the opportunity for us to all come together and share a mastermind group together and then put on a community event would be a really cool idea. So, the following March, I invited a group of incredible advocates to Denver, rented us an Airbnb, had a mastermind group, and held a community event. And it was so incredible. The following year, I added therapists doing incredible work in our community. Just after the second year, we formed as a nonprofit and held an event internationally in the UK. Our goal is to create events worldwide, which then create community, which then inspires advocates, which then creates awareness and saves lives! So far, we are right on track!
When is the next OCD Gamechangers?
Our big annual event takes place in March in Denver, Colorado. This year it is Saturday, March 7, which is very soon!
OCD Gamechangers also hosts “OCD Gamechanger Pop-Up Events.” These are events held by individuals in their community and Gamechangers helps support and market. The Pop-Up Events can be open mics, panels, speakers, or anything the individual believes meets the needs of their community. So far we have events planned for Georgia, San Francisco, and a few other states throughout the year (including Minnesota!). In October, OCD Gamechangers will have international events as well. To be announced soon!
Who should attend?
OCD Gamechangers focuses heavily on how every person impacted by OCD has a relevant and important voice. When we come together as a community, listen to each other, and share our stories, we can really solve some of the most crucial issues plaguing sufferers worldwide. Our events invite individuals with OCD, their support systems, therapists who treat OCD, and therapists who are interested in treating OCD.
Let’s say I’ve never been to an OCD Gamechangers before. What should I expect?
Conferences and big events can be really intimidating, especially if you don’t know anyone and also if you live with anxiety! The feedback we’ve received and our own experience at OCD Gamechangers has been that of a welcoming, safe, and motivating environment. Because our events are on the smaller scale (which we plan to keep that way!), we believe we give the opportunity for people to have a more intimate experience by meeting other members of our community and the presenters. It also gives attendees the opportunity to have their voice heard. All of our voices matter, and when we spend time together listening to one another, we can break down barriers and overcome obstacles that have seemed impossible before.
This year, attendees can expect to observe and participate in different activities during the day that will bring them information and education on many topics not often center stage for OCD. All topics discussed in several of our activities were suggested by attendees. Other activities include a Q&A with Dr. Steven Phillipson, an Ignite-style presentation by the therapist advocates, a TED Talk-style presentation by the advocates, and possibly a Family Feud-style game show hosted by Chris Trondsen to highlight taboo topics and make us laugh! We also have several things in place this year for individuals who may feel intimidated or are experiencing anxiety. We have “no small talk” tables, areas designated for downtime, and posters up on the wall to view and contribute to. It’s gonna be a blast!
You’re a peer support specialist. What does a typical day look like for you?
Yes, I am a certified Peer & Family Support Specialist in the state of Colorado. I do a couple things in regards to peer support. There are two of us in private practice through my company Treatment for OCD Consulting. The peer support role in my company is to meet with individuals worldwide struggling with OCD and meet them where they are at to provide support, normalization for the symptoms and the emotional turmoil the illness causes. Any given day, I could be meeting with people from Australia to Alaska to provide support!
I am also the co-founder of the company Peer Recovery Services. Our company has the Colorado Government contract that employees and supervises peer support specialists in the state civilian and forensic mental institutions. So, between working with clients as a peer support and supervising peer supports in our state hospitals, I keep extremely busy!
What advice would you give someone who wants to become a peer support specialist?
My suggestion for individuals looking to get into peer support would be to do some research in their state on how to get trained and if there is a credentialing process. Even if a state doesn’t have a certification process, that doesn’t mean there aren’t peer support jobs available. I would highly suggest that people work in the system and learn as much as possible about how the system works and all of the things individuals face who live with mental illness, substance use, and trauma. Peer support is such an amazing supplemental support for individuals who struggle with mental health symptoms. Peer support is very challenging work, though, and I would highly suggest being in a stable place in recovery and also making sure you have the right support and supervision as you grow in the profession.