Prepare for ERP in 3 Small Steps

Even when you want to change, the thought of it can be scary. It is for just about all of us, but for those with obsessive compulsive disorder, scary doesn’t begin to describe it.

Changing your behaviors is a process, which is a good thing to remember. Knowing it’s not all at once might help you view ERP differently.

When we think of change, we often just think of, well, the change. The truth is there are several steps that come before the actual change. Many people come to therapy earlier in the process and know there’s a problem but may not be ready to jump in with both feet yet.

That’s ok.

There are still things you can do to move yourself forward.

1. Learn about ERP.
There are so many great resources on the IOCDF website, podcasts like the OCD Stories, and numerous blogs. I recommend starting at the IOCDF website. IOCDF is the International OCD Foundation, and they offer lots of free good, evidence-based content to get you started on your path. Most notably, they’ve launched the Peace of Mind Foundation, which is a virtual community dedicated to OCD resources. It’s great.

2. Make 2 lists: reasons to stay where you are and reasons to do treatment.
I want you to go deep here. Write down what you’ve lost to OCD and how others have been impacted. I know this can feel painful, but this is where you start to think about your Your why has to be stronger than the discomfort of change, the discomfort of doing treatment, and the discomfort of being emotionally uncomfortable and uncertain.

ERP requires us to get better at tolerating uncomfortable emotions (whether it’s guilt, disgust, worry, shame, fear, feeling off, incomplete) over and over in the service of new learning. I understand why someone might be ambivalent about stepping into this ring — and OCD has a way of talking you out of it:

“Well, it’s no guarantee”
“You’ve tried it before and it made things worse.”
“Yours is different and maybe it won’t work.”

That’s why you really need to think about what you’re moving toward. What do you have to gain? What personal values does treatment align with (for example, not giving up, being a good role model, how you want to show up, flexibility)

3. Start messing up your rituals.
Sure, the goal is no rituals or compulsions, but you can start by messing up the rituals. Delaying it, messing up the number of times and/or how long you do something. Truly, anything that interrupts the cycle is great. And any change toward your goal is progress.

Hopefully these three small steps help you move toward what you want. If you’d like to learn more about ERP, you can start here. And, always, please connect with me if you’d like more information.