What is Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy?

Exposure Therapy is a multi-faceted form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy that focuses on challenging harmful cognitive distortions and mitigating unhealthy coping mechanisms caused by certain triggers. It consists of two parts: exposure therapy – which challenges an individual’s harmful beliefs, and response prevention therapy – which mitigates the impact of unhealthy coping mechanisms.

ERP Therapy for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy was specifically developed to treat Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which is what it is primarily used for. OCD is a form of anxiety characterized by anxieties (called obsessions), which individuals will try to control through unhealthy coping mechanisms and rituals (called compulsions). Some symptoms of OCD include:

Exposure to Trigger

First, those with OCD will be exposed to their triggers, such as unorganized pantries or dirty rooms, in an entirely safe, controlled, and counsellor-monitored environment. This stage is called Exposure Therapy.

Response Prevention

The second component of ERP Therapy, where-in the counsellor and their client work on developing the necessary skills to resist the urge to give in to one’s unhealthy coping mechanisms and compulsions.

How are they used together?

In order for the treatment to properly mitigate these unhealthy coping mechanisms, these two components must be used together and in order. Before an individual can mitigate their unhealthy coping mechanisms, they must first learn to face their triggers in a safe and monitored environment. This means that they have to first undergo Exposure Therapy before Response Prevention Therapy. However, sometimes, Exposure Therapy on its own is used to treat some anxiety disorders.

This approach to treating OCD can be scary, as it involves the person with OCD confronting their anxieties and obsessions without the safety net of their ritualistic compulsions. But eventually, after however many sessions that may be required, the individual can finally tolerate their distressing anxieties without needing their rituals to cope. This liberation from their compulsions makes the treatment, especially considering the hard work required, incredibly rewarding.

Get Matched To The Right Therapist

Not sure who can help you? You can either fill out the form to be matched to a therapist that specializes in your unique situation or give us a call at (403) 588-7639.

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