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Exposure therapy & Exposure Response Prevention (ERP)

Private ERP sessions with leading London specialists

man talking to a psychotherapist

Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is a highly effective type of cognitive-behavioural therapy, widely recognised as the gold standard for treating obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). It's also beneficial for addressing anxiety, phobias, and eating disorders.

Discover how ERP can help, what conditions it treats and much more below. Get in touch with our specialists at Schoen Clinic Chelsea today to begin your journey to recovery.

What is Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP)?

Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is a two-step therapeutic process. It begins by exposing individuals to the specific triggers that cause their discomfort. Under the guidance of a trained specialist, they then learn to prevent their ritualistic or compulsive responses through a process known as habituation, which involves becoming more accustomed to the stimuli.

ERP involves two main components:

  1. Exposure: This part involves gradually and systematically exposing the person to thoughts, images, situations, or objects that trigger their anxiety or obsessions. The exposure is done in a controlled and safe manner, starting with less distressing triggers and progressively moving to more challenging ones. This helps the individual confront their fears and learn that their anxiety diminishes over time without engaging in compulsive behaviours.

  2. Response Prevention: This component focuses on preventing the person from performing their usual compulsive behaviours in response to anxiety-provoking stimuli. By refraining from these actions, the individual learns that the anxiety will eventually subside on its own and that their feared outcomes are unlikely to occur.

ERP requires time, dedication, and practice, but through this process, patients learn to manage their thoughts without resorting to ritualistic behaviours.

What mental health conditions can ERP treat?

Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is commonly used to treat a variety of mental health conditions. At Schoen Clinic Chelsea in London, we offer ERP therapy for several conditions, including:

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): ERP is considered the gold standard for treating OCD, helping individuals manage obsessions and compulsions.

  • Anxiety Disorders: ERP can reduce generalised anxiety, social anxiety or health anxiety by helping individuals confront and manage their fears.

  • Phobias: Specific phobias, such as fear of heights, flying, or certain animals, can be effectively treated with ERP.

  • Panic Disorder: ERP can help individuals confront situations that trigger panic attacks and learn to manage their responses.

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): ERP assists in reducing the anxiety and avoidance behaviours associated with trauma-related memories and triggers.

  • Eating Disorders: ERP is used to address food-related fears and rituals, particularly in conditions like anorexia and bulimia.

By systematically exposing individuals to anxiety-provoking stimuli and preventing compulsive responses, ERP helps them build resilience and adopt healthier coping mechanisms.

Contact our caring London team for more information about ERP therapy

Access private ERP therapy in London at Schoen Clinic Chelsea today. We have appointments available in as little as 24 hours so you can begin treatment with minimal wait.

To access private treatment as swiftly as possible, simply refer yourself here. 

How much does ERP therapy cost?

The cost of different types of treatment, therapy or support will vary. See our full breakdown of our prices and funding options for more information or specific costs.

How does ERP work?

ERP involves exposing individuals to situations that trigger their intrusive thoughts or obsessions. During these exposures, patients develop new coping mechanisms that help them resist acting on their compulsions. With consistent practice and gradual habituation, ERP helps reduce anxiety and curtail compulsive behaviours.

At Schoen Clinic Chelsea, the process begins with a consultation and assessment by one of our trained specialists. They collect detailed information about an individual's specific triggers and create a customised treatment plan, designed to help them overcome their challenges as quickly and effectively as possible.

Throughout the therapy, patients work closely with their specialist to identify both external stimuli (such as places, situations and objects) and internal stimuli (such as intrusive thoughts and anxious feelings) that trigger their OCD, severe anxiety, phobias, or eating disorders.

Once these triggers are identified, patients discuss their fears and the perceived consequences of not performing their ritualistic or avoidance behaviours.

During each session’s exposure phase, patients face stimuli that typically induce discomfort and provoke obsessive behaviours or anxiety. Guided by an ERP specialist, they confront these challenges and learn to manage their impulses without resorting to compulsive actions.

With repeated exposure, patients gradually learn to respond to these triggers in healthier, more adaptive ways.

Indicators that ERP may be beneficial for you

To determine if Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy would be beneficial for you, consider the following indicators:

  • Presence of obsessions and compulsions: If you experience persistent, intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and feel compelled to perform certain behaviours (excessive handwashing for example) to reduce your anxiety, ERP might be helpful.

  • Avoidance behaviours: If you find yourself avoiding certain situations, objects, or activities due to fear or anxiety, ERP can assist in reducing these avoidance behaviours.

  • Impairment in daily life: If your obsessions, compulsions, or anxiety significantly interfere with your daily functioning, work, relationships, or quality of life, ERP could be a beneficial treatment.

  • Previous treatment: If other treatments, such as medication or general therapy, have not been fully effective in managing your symptoms, ERP might offer additional relief.

  • Willingness to face fears: ERP requires a willingness to confront fears and anxieties. If you are motivated to change and willing to engage in exposure exercises, ERP could be suitable for you.

What to expect from ERP therapy: an example

Scenario: Treating a fear of contamination

  • Assessment and goal setting:

    • During the initial sessions, the ERP therapist conducts a thorough assessment to understand the specific fears and compulsions. For instance, a person may have an intense fear of germs and feel compelled to wash their hands repeatedly.

    • The therapist and patient set specific goals, such as reducing hand washing frequency.

  • Creating an exposure hierarchy:

    • Together, they develop a list of feared situations ranked from least to most anxiety-provoking. For example, touching a doorknob without washing hands immediately might be less anxiety-provoking than touching a public restroom door handle.

  • Gradual exposure:

    • The patient starts with exposures at the lower end of the hierarchy. For instance, they might begin by touching a doorknob and delaying hand washing for a short period.

    • During the exposure, the therapist guides the patient in resisting the urge to wash their hands, helping them experience the anxiety without performing the compulsion.

  • Response prevention:

    • The patient is encouraged to resist hand washing for progressively longer periods, allowing their anxiety to decrease naturally.

    • Over time, they move up the hierarchy, facing more challenging exposures while continuing to prevent compulsive responses.

  • Developing coping strategies:

    • Throughout the process, the therapist teaches coping mechanisms such as deep breathing, mindfulness, and cognitive restructuring to help manage anxiety.

  • Reinforcement and practice:

    • The patient practices these exposures regularly, both in therapy sessions and independently. Consistent practice leads to habituation, where the anxiety response diminishes over time.

Getting started with ERP at Schoen Clinic Chelsea in London

If you recognise these indicators in yourself and are interested in exploring ERP therapy, contact our specialists at Schoen Clinic Chelsea. Our experienced professionals can conduct an assessment, develop a personalised treatment plan, and guide you through the ERP process to help you achieve relief from your symptoms.

Dr Werner Kierski


Dr Werner Kierski

Jahanara Khatun

Counselling Psychologist

Jahanara Khatun

Lorraine Green


Lorraine Green

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