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Exposure and Response Prevention


Exposure and response prevention is an intervention designed to treat Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and other phobias. In a nutshell, when it comes to OCD, our behaviors reinforce our reality.


For instance, if I’m afraid my hands are contaminated, and therefore I wash them every 3 minutes, my brain will come to believe that this amount of frequent hand washing is necessary to keep myself safe from contamination.


The way that ERP works is through two main components.


  1. The Exposure: In the handwashing analogy, “Client X” might put a small bit of dirt on his hands and leave it there for 10 seconds. This exposure helps the individual manage the discomfort and tolerate it for longer periods of time.

  2. The Response Prevention: “Client X” must now refrain from washing his hands for a set amount of time (based on clinical judgment by the therapist) and slowly increase it. This “response prevention” sends a message to the brain that not washing hands every 3 minutes is considered safe.

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