Exposure and Response Prevention Work for OCD – You Want ME to do WHAT?



At Forward Thinking Psychological Services, we are experts in helping individuals with OCD get their lives back on track. That means we do a great deal of exposure and response prevention (ERP) work. Not only do we work with you to figure out what that should look like for you, we will do it with you – to the best of our ability.

Many of you who are familiar with ERP know that it involves engaging with triggers in your world that cause urges and desires to perform rituals or compulsions. These triggers might be internal (within our minds) or external (coming into contact with things in our world). The most classic example is the individual with OCD who encounters an item that triggers intrusive thoughts regarding germs and contamination. In response to this trigger that individual might then think “What if I get sick and die?” or “What if I spread these germs to others and they get sick and die?” or they might just feel the sensation of utter disgust. In any of these examples, the individuals’ interpretation of the situation (which I often refer to as the thoughts about the thoughts), results in excessive handwashing, avoidance and possibly other mental rituals as well (i.e., mental review, neutralizing thoughts).

In working together on this, we would make sure to touch items that are believed to be contaminated and NOT wash our hands. We would spread that contamination all over our bodies, eat a snack, touch other items etc. You might wonder, “Why on earth would I want to do THAT? I would never do that during my day to day life”. You are exactly correct! But when it comes to OCD treatment, we want to go beyond what is typical and engage in behaviours that might feel outrageous! We do this to show OCD who’s the boss!

One of the best talks I heard about this was by Dr. Martin Franklin, an international OCD expert. He shared with us an amazing experience in which he was giving a workshop and he revealed that he would never ask his clients to do anything he wouldn’t do. He was talking about one client’s fear of flying and rituals they engaged in to keep them safe before the flight. He then asked everyone in that workshop to start chanting “Your plane is going to crash!!” over and over again shortly before he left to go to the airplane. His workshop was such an inspiration to my associates and me. It led us to embrace the idea that ERP must be collaborative – for you to see others engage in things that often feel very scary and foreboding.

You might be wondering what happened to Dr. Franklin on that fateful flight? Come and work with us at Forward Thinking Psychological Services and you will learn all that and so much more (hint: it’s a happy ending)! And remember, we won’t ask you to do anything we wouldn’t do!