Though there are effective psychological and drug treatments for obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), many patients remain inadequately treated or untreated. Making effective self-treatment guidance available may increase the number of patients being helped. In this review, database and manual literature searches were performed of case studies, open and randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of bibliotherapy, self-help groups, telecare and computer-aided self-help for OCD. We found no RCTs of bibliotherapy or self-help groups for OCD. Three open studies showed the efficacy of brief exposure and ritual prevention (ERP) instructions delivered by a live therapist by phone. A vicarious ERP computer program was effective in a small open study. Fully interactive computer-aided self-help by ERP for OCD was efficacious in two open studies and a large multicentre RCT, and in a small RCT compliance and outcome with that program was enhanced by brief scheduled support from a clinician. Although more research is needed, self-help approaches have the potential to help many more patients who would otherwise remain inadequately treated or untreated. Their dissemination could save resources used by health care providers. We propose a stepped care model for the treatment of OCD.