New Harbinger Publications offered to send a review copy of The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD by Jon Hershfield and Tom Corboy(2013). Since I was in the middle of taking a mindfulness class, it was interesting to read this book with specific connections to OCD.
I am familiar with the writing of Jon Hershfield, as he was the moderator of the online support group PureO for many years, and he had a way of describing obsessive thoughts and ways to face them that was very helpful.
Part 1 covers definition of mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy(CBT) terms.
The authors define mindfulness as, "the state of acknowledging and accepting whatever is happening in the present moment exactly as it is(p. 8)." In my experience, when I have an anxious thought or sensation, I race way ahead of the present moment in trying to figure out what it is or what it means.
The authors argue that, "The problem of OCD isn't that you think too much. It's that you confuse the intensity, volume or visibility of your thoughts with their importance(p. 12)." Practicing hanging in there with the intensity or stickiness of the thoughts can allow your mindful self to choose what you want to do with your life, rather than listening to the loudest voice.
The book provides a cognitive behavioral therapy background on distortions of thinking that you can identify in your own thoughts, not as a way to "solve" or "figure out" the thoughts, but to practice seeing them as thoughts. One of the things that really helped me when I was in therapy for OCD was writing down my thoughts as they happened, as if it were a transcript, but then labeling the distortions in the margin, so I got better at identifying what my mind was up to.
One such distortion is Catastrophizing/Predicting/Jumping to Conclusions. Accepting I can't predict the future is a bedrock of mindfulness. As scary as the uncertainty can be, the racing ahead brings forth even more fear.
The book does an overview of Exposure and Response Prevention therapy, and the use of Imaginal Exposure Scripts, another component that helped me in therapy.
Part 2 of the book addresses mindfulness and CBT for specific obsessions with a 3 step process.
- Acceptance of the presence of OCD thoughts and feelings. You are accepting that the thoughts are there, not any meaning that you attribute to those thoughts.
- Assessment using CBT to assess the value of the OCD thoughts, as a nonpartial observer, labeling possible distortions, and returning to the present.
- Action using behavioral skills to expose yourself to OCD thoughts in order to habituate to them and overcome your fears.
I will discuss some of these chapters in future posts, as well as some thoughts on the book as a whole.