A Review of “Healing from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder” by David Keuler

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a terror to those who suffer from it. It sits as an exhausting and demanding tormentor on the mind, eating up energy, peace, and focus. The dominant approach to treatment of OCD is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy, but Dr. David Keuler believes that Eastern philosophy can add a helpful (even necessary) tool to that treatment. His mindfulness-enhanced CBT approach offers some helpful resources for counselors, but the approach as a whole is clouded by empty cliches. Healing from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is more Eastern Philosophy than therapeutic resource.

My critiques of the work are not stemming from its authors inexperience. David Keuler has seen the impact of this disorder on countless individuals in his 20+ years as a clinical psychotherapist, specializing in OCD. He has also seen the impact of this mindfulness-enhanced therapy on healing. He no doubt has helped many overcome their struggles. And there is much in the book that I can appreciate.

The book is broken down to conform to the stages of Keuler’s therapeutic model. Part I helps readers with “Skillful Understanding.” Here, Keuler sets out to shift an individuals understanding of the nature of suffering within OCD. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder exists within a set of misguided core beliefs about the nature of this problem. Keuler argues that sufferers will need to “renounce all forms of compulsive fighting, fleeing, or freezing” (18). It is our problematic beliefs about OCD that lead us to develop unhealthy coping responses and so “skillful understanding” is the first and most necessary step.

Part I offers a ton of great insight for both counselors and sufferers. Keuler describes in detail the ways in which coping behaviors often reinforce the obsessions and compulsions. This not only tightens OCD’s grip on us but never brings about healing and recovery. There are select statements and beliefs throughout part one that I, as a Biblical counselor, can’t agree with but I won’t nitpick those at this moment.

Part II turns attention to what the author calls “Skillful Application.” Here, Keuler intends to help readers apply a mindfulness directly to the points of OCD, alongside exposure therapy, to equip individuals to face their fears. These chapters, in my opinion, begin to be less clear and helpful. Keuler’s key concepts involve “fluidity” and “stillness” and he repeats these ideas often but without real clarity on what they mean. He has a tendency to use poorly defined terminology or trite phrases which offer no tangible help. So, suffers need to “open up” and “step down” and they need to recognize that there is no past and no future, only the present. All this adds up to a lot of nebulous counsel that offers no real support in the throws of obsession and the temptation to compulsions. There are some helpful details in these chapters. The author discusses how to identify your particular obsessional themes, and coaches sufferers on starting their healing process with low-level anxiety. Ultimately, however, these are all basic concepts discussed by any other book and practitioner. I am not convinced that Keuler has really offered anything as “revolutionary” as he suggests in his introduction.

While Healing from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder offers some helpful insights I did not find this particular book to offer a lot of novel help. There are plenty of other resources that give the same insights but do so with more clarity and more tangible application to sufferers. As a Biblical Counselor I also found many things in the book that simply don’t comport with a Biblical understanding of people and problems. Jeffery Schwartz’s Brain Lock is a much more helpful resource, in my opinion, and is less problematic from a worldview standpoint. Keuler’s work seems to have more Eastern spirituality than practical help in counseling, and therefore I simply can’t recommend it.

Comments

  1. With a plethora of books available on OCD, any book that succeeds (even in part) in offering “a ton of great insight for both counselors and sufferers” is a book worth recommending. Part II of this book was not designed to be novel. It was intended to help readers apply the many insights from Part I to the state-of-the-art treatment for OCD–exposure and response prevention (ERP). Readers who are only interested in applying ERP can (and should) reference classics such as Stop Obsessing, Getting Control, or Freedom from OCD for much more in-depth guidance. If readers are looking for a mindfulness-enhanced approach, Healing from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder offers them another path, another approach–one that stands a chance of reducing OCD’s torment when classic ERP has failed. That, it seems to me, is worth a recommendation.

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