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What is ERP?

May 04, 2022

I recently asked in my Facebook group if the PANS parents knew about ERP therapy. Several PANS parents did know about it!

ERP stands for Exposure and Response Prevention therapy and is considered the "gold standard" treatment for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy has two parts to it. Here's a good definition and explanation from the IOCDF (International OCD Foundation): 

The Exposure component of ERP refers to exposing yourself to thoughts, images, objects, and situations that make you anxious and/or start your obsessions. The Response Prevention aspect of ERP refers to making a choice not to do a compulsive behavior once the anxiety or obsessions have been "triggered".  

It's important to note that the "Response Prevention" part of ERP can be refraining from a compulsion AND it can also be not avoiding something that elicits discomfort.

The first step of ERP therapy is teaching the parent(s) how ERP works, how they will help their PANS child or teen tolerate the discomfort of exposures, and how they will help their PANS child/teen practice ERP at home.

ERP can sound overwhelming to PANS parents mainly because of the challenging experiences PANS parents have had when their PANS child or teen has increased anxiety or obsessions/compulsions.

It can be helpful for PANS parents to know that when they work with an ERP therapist, they will be creating a list of "triggering" situations and rating how intense those triggers are for your PANS child/teen. ERP therapy only starts with exposures that are on the lower end of the stress scale and therefore more manageable. Creating a realistic, gradual and manageable ERP plan will allow PANS kids/teens and their families to develop confidence in the process and see results.

If you want some tips on how to navigate OCD with your PANS child or teen you can read this blog.