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Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) Therapy

Light On Anxiety offers Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy as an action-oriented treatment approach to OCD, intrusive or ego-dystonic thoughts, and other anxiety-related conditions. ERP involves gradually making contact with scary thoughts and training the brain to disengage from compulsions associated with those thoughts with the guidance of a wonderful LOA therapist.

Read more about ERP for Ego Dystonic Thoughts & Harm OCD

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Core Treatment Elements of ERP Based Treatment

Types of Exposure Techniques for ERP-Based Treatment

There are many different exposure techniques in ERP for helping manage and treating intrusive thoughts and OCD. Together, we can find the right treatment plan for you.

Visual Exposure
Reading or writing trigger words and stories associated with intrusive thoughts (ITs) or watching a video clip associated with an IT repeatedly for at least 2 minutes.

Auditory Exposure
Saying trigger words out loud repeatedly for at least 2 minutes. Create an audio file of a “scary story” associated with an IT, then listen to it on repeat for at least 2 minutes.

Proprioceptive Exposures
Engaging in a physical motion associated with an IT repeatedly for at least 2 minutes, or until anxiety level drops by half or more.

In Vivo Exposures
Exposing yourself to any situation or environment you are currently avoiding for fear it will bring on the IT, or that you will lose control and engage in feared behavior and spend time in that environment (without engaging in any safety behaviors or compulsions) until anxiety level drops by at least half.

Interoceptive Exposures
Interoceptive exposures bring on the sensations associated with feeling anxious to train your brain that the feelings of anxiety are uncomfortable but not dangerous (e.g. breathing through a straw to simulate the sensation of having trouble breathing). Your brain can learn it may not like feeling anxious and out of control, but it can handle these sensations.

Common Questions about ERP

Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) works by gradually exposing individuals to anxiety-provoking situations or stimuli while preventing them from engaging in typical anxiety-reducing behaviors. Through repeated exposure, individuals learn to tolerate and manage their anxiety without resorting to compulsive rituals, ultimately reducing the power of their fears.

ERP is a specific type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that focuses on exposing individuals to feared situations or stimuli without allowing them to engage in their usual compulsions. While regular CBT addresses various cognitive distortions and behaviors, ERP is particularly effective for treating anxiety disorders, OCD, and specific phobias.

The duration of ERP therapy varies depending on the individual's specific needs and progress. Typically, ERP is conducted over several weeks to months, with regular sessions scheduled to facilitate gradual exposure and response prevention exercises.

ERP therapy sessions at Light On Anxiety typically last between 53 minutes, although session lengths can be adjusted based on individual preferences and therapeutic goals.

ERP can be adapted for children and teens by using age-appropriate language, incorporating play therapy techniques, and involving parents in the treatment process. With proper guidance and support, children and teens can effectively learn to confront their fears and manage their anxiety through ERP.

While ERP may initially intensify anxiety due to exposure to feared situations, this temporary discomfort is a crucial part of the treatment process. With consistent practice and support from a trained therapist, individuals can learn to cope with and eventually reduce their anxiety levels over time.

ERP may not be suitable for individuals who are unwilling or unable to engage in exposure exercises, those with severe comorbid conditions that require alternative treatments, or individuals who are at risk of harm without their typical coping mechanisms in place.

Some potential disadvantages of ERP therapy include initial discomfort and anxiety during exposure exercises, challenges in finding the right balance between exposure and distress, and the need for consistent practice and commitment to the treatment process to see lasting results.


Additional Resources


Dr. Debra Kissen, founder and CEO of Light On Anxiety Treatment Centers, demystifies Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) therapy, a pivotal element in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for anxiety disorders.

Chat with a therapist to start ERP therapy.

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