Dr. Gerald Tarlow on ERP
Dr. Tarlow, director of the OCD treatment program at PCH discusses cognitive behavioral therapy and Exposure and Response Prevention as well as their role in helping clients overcome compulsions and treating obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety.
I’m Dr. Gerald Tarlow. I am the director of the OCD Program at PCH. The general treatment modality is cognitive behavioral therapy but there are some specific techniques within cognitive behavioral therapy that have been found to be particularly effective with patients who suffer from OCD. The most frequently used and most effective technique is called ERP which stands for Exposure and Response Prevention, sometimes called Exposure and Ritual Prevention.
And it’s basically a technique where we systematically expose people to the things that they are afraid of and at the same time we prevent them from doing their compulsions that they have done for a long time, that they have used to reduce their anxiety in the past. And what we find is that if people stop doing these compulsions and continue to get exposed to their fears, that their anxiety does go away. And the more that we do that, the less anxiety the person has. And we keep doing that until we’ve basically exposed people to the things that they are afraid of the most. And this has been found to be an extremely effective technique in treating obsessive compulsive disorder patients.
The program at PCH is a very very intensive cognitive behavioral therapy program, where the patient gets treated five days a week and they get to see a therapist on a daily basis to plan basically what their exposures will be. They participate in generally at least two hours a day to exposures, those exposure are being supervised by a behavioral coach that they are assigned to that particular day. And then in addition, they are also attending a group therapy during the day. It’s an open ended program in that there is no set time that they will be at PCH. We try to determine when they are ready to partake in a less intensive program or go into outpatient therapy. So we are free to continually evaluate them and determine when that really should take place.
One of the great things about the PCH Program is the ability of each program to evaluate their patients, see if they are appropriate for that particular program, and even if they are started in the program and we find that maybe this person would do better in a general program rather than the specific OCD Program we have the ability to transfer the patient to that program or even integrate the two programs. We’ve had patients that have developed psychotic issues during our program and then we’ve been able to transfer them to another PCH program that is better able to deal with those sorts of issues. So there is a lot of flexibility in terms of transferring patients and even combining some of the different programs at PCH. This is such a common problem and what is critical that I want to get across is it’s a very treatable problem. People do not have to suffer with this. OCD can dramatically effect people’s lives and people’s families and at this point we know so much about it and how to treat it that people do not really have to suffer with this problem.
Dr. Gerald Tarlow, PHD, Director OCD Program
PCH Treatment Center is one of a handful of residential programs in the country that offers an evidence-based approach to treating Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Our OCD Treatment Program features Cognitive Therapy, Exposure and Response Prevention, OCD specific group therapies and medication management. You can learn more about our stand-alone program for treating OCD with the below resources: