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Learning to Love Roller Coasters

KD Holmes, LPC

Recently I began attending a consultation group and the leader happened to have written a book that I use in my office daily, The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD

Needless to say I felt like I was watching one of my favorite bands when I discovered this fact, but this time I was geeked out about this man’s brain. LOL. The changes in interests that occur as we age. 

In the training, the group leader discussed inhibitory learning, something I had never heard of. I love to be surprised by knowledge and challenged to look at things in an alternative way. It is probably due to my Anthropology brain/degree. I’d compare it to learning another perspective of viewing a problem.  

Inhibitory Learning

Inhibitory learning is a model used to understand Exposure Response Prevention (ERP), which is used to treat OCD. ERP uses a behavioral perspective of gradual exposure to obsessions and fears while abstaining from the compulsions to desensitize said fear(s) and stop engagement in your OCD loop. 

Inhibitory learning addresses how we view each exposure to obsessional fear and how learning to manage that anxiety without reacting with a negative coping pattern or compulsion creates an overall learning.  This learning creates new pairings with our anxiety.  

Anxiety Pairing

We are learning to love riding rollercoasters and watching scary movies.  Biologically we should hate these experiences but we don't.  We watch them every week (at least I do), or we go on trips to ride the best scariest roller coaster (which I do not). 

In ERP we are learning, for lack of a better word, to be resilient through different types of exposures. Overall, learning is what is most important because OCD can be like wack-a-mole.  You know the arcade game where you pound one mole down and then another one pops up. Often once you get one exposure facilitated, (finally cease to fear it), another one starts up. This is very common in OCD and anxiety disorders.

Anxiety / OCD Treatment = Inhibitory Learning

So learning to address fear/obsessions/anxiety another way through inhibitory learning can help you have a new experience of fear in ALL areas of your life. 


EMDR, ERP, DBT = Learning

I find this newly learned term mind-blowing because it IS what I facilitate and have been facilitating in my office through EMDR, ERP, and DBT therapeutic techniques, I just hadn’t labeled my particular methodology so that it could be used more consciously.

I am always working myself out of a job. By this I mean that I am building resilience in my clients which means eventually they will not need to see me anymore. I want my clients to truly know that they can manage their internal/external storms and to be able to identify what they need when disruptions occur, and facilitate them in their lives through LEARNING that begins in my office and continues into their lives.  

The mind is a tricky place. We think because things occur inside of us that we should be able to work them out all by ourselves, but often times we cannot.  

Know that:

  1. Some things are biological so we cannot change them.

    OCD is one of those biological diagnosis.  They say that there is more grey matter in the brain of an OCD client.

  2. Changing our symptoms is NOT the answer.

    We must learn to accept what is occurring and “make room for these thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations”. This is how learning begins. I know many of you will say this woman is crazy.  I cannot do such a thing, but science can be pretty convincing and correct.  

  3. Seeing a therapist who SPECIALIZES in what you are suffering from is exactly what you need to pursue.

    Experts in these conditions assist you in facilitating changes that we cannot facilitate on our own. It is similar to having lung issues. You would not expect to be capable of healing yourself on your own. You would see a specialist and follow their recommendations.  

  4. Therapy is a place of learning.

    A therapist’s office is where this type of learning begins. Let's begin the learning process together.

KD Holmes LPC

Exposure Response Prevention, Anxiety Treatment, Inhibitory Learning