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What is ERP and how can it help my clients?

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What is ERP and how can it help my clients?

As you will know, there are lots of forms of CBT. One of these is ERP (exposure response prevention). ERP is mainly used to treat people with a history of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), but can also be used for other types of anxiety, such as health anxiety.

But what exactly is ERP, and what can it do? In this article, we’ll explain ERP and show you how it can help your clients!

What is ERP?

Exposure response prevention is, quite literally, putting someone in a situation that causes the anxiety, and not responding to it. For example, if they are terrified of flying, the worst thing that they can do is to avoid flying altogether. Practicing exposure response prevention would start with putting themselves on a plane.

Is ERP just ‘facing your fears’?

There are some differences between the practice of ERP and the idea of ‘facing your fears’. Most people who have a fear of flying, for example, may still fly. However, they may have developed rituals, like praying while on the flight or tapping the armrest a certain amount of times. Their brain will have made a connection that tells them that they need to do this to keep them safe.

These rituals are surprisingly common in the general population. However, they become an issue – and often result in diagnosed OCD – when they get in the way of a person’s life.

If somebody is practicing ERP, they will expose themselves to their anxious situation – which in this case, is getting on a plane – and then refrain from doing any of the responses, such as praying or tapping.

How does this work?

By doing this, the person tells the brain that it does not need to continue doing their compulsions to keep them safe. The brain gradually realises that these compulsions do not make sense, and it stops advising that the person does them. Ultimately, it undoes the faulty connection that causes someone to have OCD.

ERP is an interesting type of CBT that is very effective for people who are suffering from OCD, and knowledge of it is a useful addition to any therapist’s repertoire.

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