Our Therapeutic Approach
Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy
We use Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) techniques, which are based in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). While this outcome can be enhanced with the implementation of medications, we have found that many people benefit from therapy alone. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has two components. First, it helps to change thinking patterns (cognitions) that have prevented individuals from overcoming their fears. And second, the behavioral component helps individuals to slowly come in contact with their fears. This is done through Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy (ERP) and is designed to systematically desensitize one to their fears. This treatment is exceptionally effective and produces remarkable results, allowing individuals to learn that they can successfully face their fears. Repeatedly facing one’s fears and learning to manage the uncomfortable feelings and thoughts associated with these fears allows the anxiety to gradually fade away. Situations in which the fears may have caused anxiety that was paralyzing can become manageable. The person learns he can choose to “flee” or “fight”, and what was once a “flight” response may become nothing more than an acknowledgement of the fear.
Here’s how it works:
The first step is to make a list of triggers. This may include objects, people, situations, words, images, and thoughts. For some, these lists will be quite long and extensive. Next, we explore the list of triggers and look to find those that produce the least amount of anxiety, which will be our starting point. We rate the triggers on a scale of 1 to 10. A “10” would be at the top and potentially create panic if exposed to it too soon; a “1” would be in the range of manageable. Once the first exposure is determined, the approach to the exposure is discussed. If it involves an object, the individual may not be ready to touch it, and may simply need to spend some time looking at it. The next step is to move the object closer until the individual is ready to come in contact with it (exposure). Then, the key will be to make sure there will be no compulsions, either during or after the exposure (ritual prevention). This process is then continued up the hierarchy until all feared objects, thoughts, or impulses are addressed.
Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy is a treatment protocol that is scientifically proven to produce changes in the neurochemistry of the brain. These changes can be observed through Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans whereby differences are demonstrated from the beginning of treatment (pre-exposure) when compared to the completion of treatment (post-exposure). This evidenced based treatment offers our clients hope and inspiration for their future as it promotes life-changing results.
Tips For Family Members
- Don’t say “just stop it,” or “there’s nothing to worry about.” If they could stop the anxiety they would.
- Remember, there is no pleasure in the anxiety. They are suffering and in distress.
- Don’t get defensive.
- Don’t try to fix the problem. Remind them that when they enter into therapy they will develop tools they can use.
- Don’t tell them not be anxious, or that they “shouldn’t” be anxious, or “quit worrying.” Again, they would if they could.
- OCD and other anxiety disorders are caused by a biochemical imbalance and is not a weakness.
- Educate yourself on OCD and/or anxiety disorders.
- Telling them that their fears are irrational and illogical is invalidating. They already know that!
- You can’t talk someone out of their fear. So, be careful not to get caught up in logic or trying to use rational explanations to work through their anxiety. Through exposure therapy, they will test out whether their fear will happen. By continuing to engage in discussions, you may be feeding the anxiety.