The Age of Anxiety - What is Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy Anyway?
Are you Struggling in this age of anxiety?
Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is the gold standard for treating anxiety and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). How does it work? Whenever our brain perceives a potential threat (speaking in front of people, flying on a plane, germs, etc.), it automatically starts to have thoughts that lead towards urges to act - We want to flee, avoid, and dismiss things that make us anxious. That’s not really the life we want, it’s the way our anxiety tells us we have to live in order to keep surviving. But the truth is, we miss out on a lot of things if we listen to our anxiety. We miss out on experiences, relationships, and monumental moments.
The Exposure part of therapy refers to putting yourself into thoughts, imagined experiences, and situations that induce the feelings of anxiety or the likelihood that an obsession will occur. The Response Prevention part is actively choosing to not act on an unhealthy urge once anxiety has triggered the unhelpful thoughts. ERP lets you journey with your therapist to a place where you can recognize you are resilient and can handle it even if you experience your worst fear.
In a typical ERP session, your therapist will begin to gather information regarding situations and objects that make you anxious. You and your therapist develop a list of potential threats that lead to anxiety and your therapist then begins with imaginal exposure, where you imagine what these experiences or these threats would be life if they were a reality.
Then, as you grow in your resilience towards these imagined experiences, your therapist will begin to help you experience some of the situations in-vivo, or in real life. The great news is that you do this all with your therapist, you are not alone. As you continue to expose yourself to both hypothetical and real life situations, your brain begins to learn it does not have to fear any longer because the situation may or may not happen and you have learned you can handle it!
Don't let anxiety run your life anymore!
Ashlenn Von Wiegand, LPC, CCH, NCC
Exposure and Response Prevention therapist