About Exposure and Response Prevention

If you suffer from debilitating anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder, your daily life likely feels like a real struggle. You watch other people easily navigate work and family obligations, wishing you could do the same. However, it seems that even the simplest activities are sometimes out of your reach. The good news is, treatment is available. Exposure and response prevention could offer you therapeutic benefits and give you the chance to embrace a fuller, more vibrant life.

Victor Meyer, a British psychologist, developed exposure and response prevention therapy in the mid-1960s. The belief behind it is that by exposing a person to something they fear (or feel anxious about) over and over, their anxiety will decrease over time.

Exposure and response prevention, or ERP, involves two parts, which take place at the same time: exposing a person to what she fears (exposure) and preventing her from reacting a certain way (response) as a result of that fear. In general, she’ll feel a great deal of anxiety due to the stimulus.

How effective is exposure and response prevention therapy? Some trials find this treatment as effective as medication. In addition, the benefits of ERP therapy may last longer than a medication course. Effects of successful treatment can be present after treatment is over, but when a person stops taking medication, her symptoms will return.

A woman talks to a counselor about exposure and response prevention therapy

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What Exposure and Response Prevention Can Treat

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, forms the general basis for exposure and response prevention. In CBT, clients learn to change their thinking patterns and therefore their actions. In ERP, clients face their fears and anxieties in order to change their reactions to them.

How does exposure and response prevention work in treating OCD? Say someone has an aversion to germs. She obsessively washes her hands any time she touches something that she feels is dirty. In ERP therapy, she’ll touch something dirty, but won’t be able to wash up afterward.

By not being allowed to do what she would typically do, the therapist prevents her from taking flight as part of the body’s natural “fight or flight” response. With prolonged and repeated exposure, her reactions and anxiety will gradually diminish. This process is called “habituation,” when she learns that nothing bad occurs if she no longer performs certain rituals.

Other disorders that ERP is used to treat include:

When it’s not possible to present a real situation that creates anxiety, therapists can substitute sound or visual effects to mimic it. Clients will feel similar anxiety from the simulation.

It’s vital that clients work with therapists with skill and experience in this type of therapy. The right professionals understand that exposure and response prevention therapy needs to be controlled and safe. They’ll present easier challenges first and work their way to more difficult issues.

In time, clients are so used to the stimulus that it no longer has the same (negative) effect on them.


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A Peaceful Place to Heal and Grow

If you’re searching for an OCD treatment program in Birmingham Alabama, there’s a peaceful center in nearby Columbiana that can help. Magnolia Creek offers individualized treatment to women who want to heal and thrive in a safe, therapeutic environment.

At our eating disorder and mental health treatment center, you’ll enjoy a homelike atmosphere. We maintain a small client-to-staff ratio so that each client receives the personalized care she deserves.

The services we provide include:

You don’t have to miss out on life due to OCD, depression, or anxiety. With the right treatment, you can be the strong, empowered woman you’ve always wanted to be. Call the caring team at Magnolia Creek today, and get ready to create a new life. Contact us at 205-409-4220 for more information on exposure and response prevention therapy.

We are here to help you. Contact Us @ 205-409-4220 or send us an email.

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