Have you ever had thoughts, images, or urges which feel unpleasant and are time-consuming, and you are unable to control them? Do you feel the need to do something in response to those intrusive thoughts, images, or urges to help feel better, or decrease some of the anxiety or distress related to the thoughts? If so, you may be experiencing obsessions, compulsions, or both. An example of an obsession could be fearing contamination-related things, such as bodily excretions or fluids, garbage, spoiled food, and more (IOCDF, 2022). As a result of that fear, you may do things to avoid the contamination or remove the contamination if you already came into contact with it; the acts to prevent or remove the contamination could be washing your hands excessively, washing them a specific number of times, avoiding places or people, or feeling the need to disinfect everything, just to name a few. These acts are what we refer to as compulsions (IOCDF, 2022).

If this sounds relatable, you are not alone! Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, can be diagnosed if there are obsessions, compulsions, or both, and these obsessions and compulsions interfere with an individual’s ability to do important day to day activities such as working, being with family and friends, going to school, and more (IOCDF, 2022). You may have been experiencing these for as long as you can remember, or maybe it’s something recent. You may also notice the obsessions and compulsions feel more intense if you are feeling extra stressed. Regardless of onset or frequency, the important thing to know is you don’t have to live with this forever!

The International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) offers a helpful brochure here.

What is EXRP?

The gold star treatment for OCD is called Exposure and response prevention (ERP or EXRP). 


  • Seeking treatment would be to make an appointment with a mental health provider who offers this treatment.
  • During your first or second session, an assessment will be completed to gather details about the obsessions and compulsions. You and your provider will discuss if ERP is a good fit for you.
  • If so, and if you are comfortable with moving forward, treatment may last between 10-20 sessions, ranging from 60 to 90 minutes once or twice a week, depending on what makes sense for you.

    Treatment is tailored to each individual and consists of several different activities.

Goals of EXRP: 

  • Increase your ability to tolerate distress and anxiety

  • Exposure to the anxiety-provoking thoughts without engaging in compulsive behaviors

  • Live a value guided life without feeling  

Helpful resources:

  • https://iocdf.org/
  • https://iocdf.org/books/#self-help
  • https://iocdf.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/What-Is-OCD-Brochure.pdf

Therapists trained in EXRP: