top of page

Exposures Seem Scary

Can OCD Be Treated Without Doing Exposures?

Exposures are the gold-standard treatment approach for OCD … and yes, exposures are scary. For exposures to be helpful, they actually need to be scary and make us feel uncomfortable. This is because the exposure process is focused on helping us learn to let go of control and do the opposite of what OCD is telling us to do, and this can feel very scary – it may even feel impossible!

While exposures are a key component of OCD treatment, they are not the only important component. Some people are ready to jump right into doing exposures, while others have mixed emotions, and others feel that “exposures are not for me.” 

If you are not yet ready to start the exposure process, we recommend you keep an open mind and try to shift your thinking from “I am never doing exposures” to “I am not yet ready for exposures” or “I am working towards becoming more open to doing exposures.” 

Exposures are a powerful approach for tackling OCD and can lead to huge progress and recovery gains. Having said that, you should not feel forced to do exposures by your therapist; the process should be collaborative. In addition, there are ways to make exposures feel less scary when you are just starting. Therefore, finding a workable starting point when doing exposures is an important part of the process. 

If you are still unsure of or dead set against doing exposures, that is okay. Although exposures are the most effective treatment approach for OCD, there are other therapeutic approaches that are also helpful.


It can be challenging to know what other directions to go in, as dozens of therapeutic approaches exist. Moreover, many specific principles and techniques exist within each approach. Our biggest suggestion is to select acceptance-based approaches.


It it important to note that while there are other therapeutic approaches that are helpful, there are also specific therapy approaches that are counter-productive for OCD. These are approaches that are commonly used, however, actually make OCD worse.

We hope this introductory Guide has helped normalize that exposures seem scary for many people, and that it is okay if you are not ready for them just yet. Wherever you are in your journey, we encourage you to keep an open mind to the exposure process, as it is one of the most powerful tools out there for OCD recovery!

The associated Educational Guides go into comprehensive detail on acceptance-based approaches and unhelpful therapy approaches for OCD:

bottom of page