Exposure and response prevention therapy, also known as ERP therapy, grew out of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). In 1966, British psychologist Victor Meyer took CBT a step further in treating patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and formed this new therapy, ERP.
ERP encourages people to face their fears, sources of anxiety, phobia, or addiction and then change how they react to them. In an ERP session, a person is repeatedly exposed to their triggers and taught coping mechanisms, stress management tools, and ways to effectively handle these situations in a healthier manner. It is an excellent therapeutic choice for a relapse prevention therapy program.
For more information about a relapse prevention therapy program in Palm Springs, California, call Michael’s House at 760.548.4032. We are ready to help individuals break the cycle of addiction and find lasting recovery.
Who Is Best Suited for ERP in a Relapse Prevention Therapy Program?
Exposure and response prevention therapy is often used to treat patients suffering from OCD and manage their symptoms successfully. The Medical Clinic of Pennsylvania and Hahnemann University employed several studies to test how well ERP therapy worked for OCD patients and found that, generally speaking, patients responded favorably between 70 and 85 percent of the time, with the treatment remaining effective for at least two years. Patients had fewer symptoms overall.
ERP is often considered the go-to treatment for OCD. It also seems effective in treating other forms of phobias and mental health disorders, including eating disorders and anxiety disorders. ERP can benefit those suffering from many different disorders, including:
- Substance abuse disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Eating disorders
- Anxiety disorders
Exposure and response prevention therapy can be very difficult at first and requires patience and diligence. Facing one’s fears or triggers can be very painful and requires the help of a trained professional. Everyone responds differently to therapy, and ERP therapy is no exception. Patients will need to be properly assessed to determine if it is the right type of therapy for them.
ERP therapy can be administered as part of a residential treatment plan or on an outpatient basis, depending on the patient’s needs. It requires multiple sessions that gradually work to decrease symptoms. It is not a miracle cure that works overnight but instead takes time and effort to retrain the body and brain in how to act and react accordingly.
Benefits of ERP in Addiction Relapse Prevention
Discovering what triggers an anxiety attack, OCD episode, or a desire to abuse substances can be useful in learning how to manage the disorder. For example, those suffering from a substance use disorder (SUD) may have heightened cravings when in certain places, around specific groups of people, or when feeling a certain way.
Exposure and response prevention therapy works as a two-step process:
- First, the person is exposed to the trigger directly, called “in vivo,” or if this isn’t plausible, they can be exposed through “imaginal” exposure. In vivo exposure is exposing someone to their trigger directly, like showing a crack cocaine user a pipe, while imaginal exposure is when a person imagines a specific event or trigger. Both forms of exposure serve to bring about the cravings, feelings, and thought processes that typically lead to substance abuse.
- The second step of ERP therapy is the responsive prevention part, in which the therapist then works to help develop the tools necessary to not give in to their cravings. Preventing the response—in this case, abusing substances—through exposure is called habituation. This is a form of conditioning where you train your mind and body not to react to certain stimuli.
ERP therapy sessions help patients recognize their triggers and learn how to overcome them, enabling newfound self-confidence and increased self-control. As part of a relapse prevention therapy program, ERP therapy is also likely to help prevent future relapse as patients are not just detoxed and sent back into the world. Instead, they are encouraged to discover the root of their addiction and how to avoid heading down the same destructive path in the future.
Dual Diagnosis Care
Often those suffering from mental health disorders such as eating disorders, OCD, PTSD, and other anxiety disorders may turn to substance abuse as a means to cope or self-medicate, which can also lead to addiction and/or substance abuse disorders. Substance abuse also exacerbates mental health disorders, and the combination of the two is very common. In fact, the National Alliance on Mental Illness postulates that nearly half of those abusing drugs and one-third of those abusing alcohol also suffer from a mental illness of some sort.
Addiction is also considered a disorder, and when mental health disorders and substance abuse disorders are present in the same person at the same time, they are referred to as co-occurring disorders and require dual diagnosis care. With such care, both disorders are treated simultaneously for the best results. Exposure and response prevention therapy can be a valuable tool in treating each separate disorder.
Michael’s House staff members are highly specialized in treating co-occurring disorders and utilize various therapeutic methods based on the individual’s personalized treatment plan. At our facility, professionals work to teach life skills and healthy coping mechanisms to prevent relapse and provide the necessary tools for a happy and healthy life.
Contact Michael's House for a Relapse Prevention Therapy Program in Palm Springs, California
Michael’s House provides a supportive environment with skilled therapists intent on treating the whole person, not just the disorders they may suffer from. Our goal is long-term recovery and a brighter, healthier future. Call 760.548.4032 today to speak with an admissions coordinator about how to get started, or reach out online.