Here’s a press release from the UK national health authority describing very positive interim results of the ORBIT study in England. It provides the best evidence yet for the efficacy of a behavior therapy called exposure and response prevention (ERP) for tics. ERP has been around for a long time, and is still a first-line therapy for OCD. A previous study compared it to habit reversal therapy, the key component of CBIT, and found that the two behavior therapy methods had similar results. For various reasons, ERP has been taken up much more in Europe, where it is now the preferred first-line treatment for tics, than in America.
ORBIT is a way of making this therapy more widely available. It uses “online, therapist-supported, therapy [that] can be done in the child’s home, at their own pace and accessed from wherever they live. Children and their parents only needed a therapist’s help for around 15 mins per week.”
The bottom line? “Overall, children who received ERP were twice as likely show improvement in their tics, than those who received education,” which was intended as a placebo treatment with a similar amount of professional contact.
This is exciting! We’re talking about an inexpensive, effective treatment with no known side effects. On average, behavior therapies for Tourette syndrome improve tics by around 50%, so as with most things in life, YMMV. But that’s close to the same success rates as we see with dopamine blocking medications, so that’s pretty good.
The “Treating Tics” tab on this web site (tics.wustl.edu) has some information about other online treatments for tics.