Exposure based therapies, including Exposure and Response Prevention, have been shown to be some of the most effective treatments for many types of anxiety. Exposure and Response Prevention is a specific form of Exposure Therapy that is particularly useful in treating Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Phobias, and Social Anxiety. Our clinicians are well trained to use Exposure and Response Prevention in the treatment of these and other related conditions.
Exposure Therapy is based on the idea that anxiety is made worse when we avoid the things that we fear. It may be helpful to imagine the following example of a person who develops a phobia of dogs. One day, a person is walking down a street and is bit by a stranger’s dog. From then on, this person feels afraid of dogs and tries to avoid dogs when walking along the sidewalk. Maybe sometimes they see someone walking their dog in the distance, so they cross the road to another walkway. Possibly, they may stop going on their routine walks in order to avoid the situation altogether. While this may help the person feel more safe for the moment, avoiding dogs forever will not allow them to one day overcome their fear and get back to the life they lived before.
In Exposure and Response Prevention therapy, the person from the example would slowly be introduced to dogs so that they may learn intellectually and emotionally that most dogs are not dangerous. Of course, for someone who has newly become afraid of dogs, the thought of being around dogs may be too overwhelming. For this reason, Exposure and Response Prevention typically includes working with a therapist to gradually be reintroduced to the avoided situation in a way that feels safe and manageable. So a person may start overcoming their anxiety by looking at a picture of a dog, and once they are comfortable with this, the person may then watch a video of a dog, until eventually they feel comfortable and confident enough to pet a friend’s K9. Little by little, the person learns to overcome their fear. At the end of this process, the person feels secure enough to get back to enjoying their sunny afternoon walks. Therapists work with patients every step of the way to help them feel in control of the process and let them know they do not have to go through it alone.