What is Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy?
Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy is for people diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. OCD is when a person uses compulsive behaviors to try and control repetitive, distressing, and intrusive thoughts. For example, a person may wash their hands excessively because they have extreme fear and anxiety of germs.
ERP’s goal is to promote distress tolerance skills that replace rituals or compulsions.
Your therapist will introduce the concept of “habituation,” which involves slowly exposing you to the feared experience. Through distress tolerance techniques such as mindfulness and breathing exercises, your nervous system learns to calm down when exposed to the stimuli. Eventually, after repeated exposure, your body learns to respond differently.
Another idea behind Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy is that you learn that your previous associations are likely wrong by being exposed to the feared stimuli multiple times. For example, someone who fears germs learns, through repeated exposure, that they will not become deathly ill after exposing themself to germs.
ERP also can help you manage distressing emotions surrounding the fear itself. You can ease some of these obsessions and compulsions by learning to tolerate uncertainty.
Your ERP therapist will work with you to develop skills of distress tolerance, mindfulness, and staying present in the moment, which can help you manage your symptoms.