Gerd Kvale

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can take months of therapy to treat. But Kvale and Hansen, who are clinical psychologists at Haukeland University Hospital in Norway, have shown they can treat it in just four days. Frustrated by the traditional model of ­therapy—­meeting with patients just once or twice a week, with days between sessions to stall progress or give people the chance to drop out—Kvale and Hansen developed a program in which therapists help their patients learn how to deal with anxiety through marathon sessions of exposure therapy. “Patients say it’s hard work and one of the most challenging weeks of their life,” Kvale says. “But the change that they experience through these four days is sort of magic and life-­changing.”

So far, about 1,200 people with OCD have gone through the intensive regimen; approximately 70% recover completely and remain in remission four years later, according to a study published in August in the journal Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. And very few of them quit. Kvale and Hansen’s pioneering model of concentrated ­therapy—which the researchers are now testing for panic disorders and social ­anxiety—has spread to Iceland and Sweden and will soon come stateside to a private clinic in Houston. —Mandy Oaklander