Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP)

What is ERP?

Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is the gold-standard approach for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and also specific phobias. It is also a component in the treatment of other disorders like body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), social phobia, PTSD, and some others.

Simply put, it is a therapy approach where we ask you to face your fears directly. When people ask us what we do for a living, we often say that “We basically scare people in small to moderate amounts until they are not scared anymore.” This pretty much sums up what we do in Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy but it’s important to emphasize that ERP is NOT supposed to be an overly scary or intimidating process. Many people have gotten that impression and it’s very important to dispel that idea. A gifted ERP therapist will help you to gradually and consistently go towards your fears in a way that is manageable. Yes, it is anxiety provoking at times but that is the point of the therapy, after all.

Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy starts off with a thorough assessment that’s referred to as a Functional Analysis of Behavior to determine the exact conditions that maintain the obsessions and compulsions. Next we gather the information from the assessment and create a treatment plan that is specifically tailored to the particular needs of the patient and how the OCD presents itself. We often create a fear hierarchy and help the person steadily and gradually work through feared experiences that help them face their fear directly. At the same time, we ask that the patient refrain from doing their safety behaviors which are also known as rituals or compulsions.

It is important to emphasize that the goal of Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy is not to reduce fear or anxiety. That may sound counterintuitive, but it is true. The goal of ERP is to increase a person’s tolerance to fear and/or discomfort. If a person is able to increase their fear tolerance, the likely secondary result is a reduction in anxiety. New learning takes place in that a person learns that they can tolerate their feared content and that the bad outcome they expect is unlikely to occur.

All of the therapists at OCD Spectrum are experts in Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy and how to use it effectively to help people face their fears and get on with their life.