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Exposure & Response Prevention

Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is a short-term, evidence-based therapy for the treatment of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, anxiety, and related disorders. It has the most research supporting its use and is the most effective treatment for OCD and anxiety. At The OCD & Anxiety Center, we specialize in this form of treatment. ERP is a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a broader model of therapy wherein a person changes the way they feel by first changing the way they think or act. In ERP specifically, a person confronts their fears in an objectively safe and gradual manner; instead of giving in to the natural tendency to avoid objects, people or situations that could trigger his/her uncomfortable emotions. Unlike other forms of therapy, ERP sessions are structured around these exposure exercises, with the goal of helping clients become “their own therapists,” able to conduct their own exposures and continue to overcome anxiety even after treatment has ended. Anxiety leads people to believe that if something is feared, it should be avoided. However, research demonstrates that the more something is avoided, the stronger the anxiety surrounding it grows. As anxiety grows, it has the potential to interfere with every aspect of a person’s life, from work, to school, to social relationships and recreation. ERP helps clients confront fear and reclaim their lives, and many of our clients enjoy the active, empowering nature of this treatment. A typical ERP session may involve any of the following exercises, alone or in combination:

  • Building a “hierarchy” of fears; that is, a list of what triggers anxiety from least to most anxiety-producing
  • Predicting what may happen during exposure, and comparing those predictions to what really happens
  • “In vivo” or “real life” exposure: facing objects or situations that trigger anxiety or obsessions
  • Imaginal exposure: facing thoughts, images or urges that trigger anxiety or obsessions
  • Interoceptive exposure: intentionally causing bodily changes (such as increased heart rate, fast breathing, feeling heated) that trigger anxiety or obsessions
  • Response Prevention: decreasing and limiting compulsions or safety behavior once the anxiety or obsessions have been “triggered.”

Exposures can be conducted in an endless variety of ways. We tailor the types of exposures used in session and for homework to fit you and your specific concerns. This makes our treatment highly individualized, and effective for any type of anxiety that a person may be experiencing. ERP has demonstrated effectiveness in treating:

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Agoraphobia
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Separation Anxiety Disorder
  • Specific Phobias
  • Illness Anxiety Disorder

Each one of our staff are trained in this proven, evidence-based method. If you or someone you know would benefit from Exposure and Response Prevention therapy, please reach out to us at (847) 412-0922. 

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