20Tue

From our friends: OCD and storytelling

ocd, help, storytelling

We’re always excited to introduce our readers to the incredible work our friends are doing so you can have access to the most effective and “up-to-date” resources to manage any struggle you’re going through.

Today, it’s with great pleasure we introduce you to the book “OCD Treatment Through Storytelling” by Dr. Allen Weg.  His book is based on years of clinical work with clients with OCD  and their families, and contains dozens of stories that help to explain hard-to-grasp aspects of OCD and its most effective treatment, exposure and response preventionDr. Weg’s use of storytelling and metaphor in this book is unique, and really captures the nitty gritty aspects of dealing with OCD and facing exposure work.

We interviewed Dr. Weg about his book, inspiration, and advice for those dealing with OCD; his responses are thoughtful, personal, and very helpful! Enjoy and get to know Dr. Weg as a storyteller of OCD moments!

Why did you feel there was a need for this book?
OCD is often difficult to understand, not only for the general population, but for those who are suffering from it. “I realize this is ridiculous, yet I am compelled to do it!” is the kind of thing we hear all the time from those with OCD. Beyond that, the treatment is even more difficult to understand- “I am coming here to learn how to become less anxious, and you want me to do all these things designed, on purpose, to make me feel more anxious?!!!” is not an unusual response, because the treatment is so counterintuitive.  Therefore, a good way to “sell” the treatment was to use stories and metaphors, as they help people to better understand sometimes subtle and difficult concepts related to the experience and treatment of OCD.

Can you describe your writing ritual?
I would find that someone in treatment was having difficulty with a certain aspect of understanding OCD or its treatment, and would find myself spontaneously telling a story or using a metaphor to clarify the point. If it seemed to stick, I would make a note of it and use it with other clients.

I did this again and again with many different clients and for different concepts regarding OCD and its treatment. After 15 years, I found I had enough of these stories to write a book.  I never just sat down to write it.

What drew you specifically to OCD?
Many things, but two in particular. First, l was intrigued by the fact that these clients presented with very bazaar symptoms which made them look psychotic, yet, when you just talk to them and spend time with them, they present as bright, socially skilled, and very “normal,” usually very likeable people. i found that dichotomy intriguing.

I was also struck by the fact that many of the symptom pictures seemed, at the same time, both totally bazaar, yet somehow strangely familiar. Even though the client would describe something they thought or did that sounded totally crazy,  I would find myself saying, “Yeah, I kind of do something a little like that sometimes.” The only differences really seemed to be the degree to which the symptoms happened, and the amount of control one had over them. We have all gone back and checked something when we really didn’t need to, or thought “what if I did X?” under certain circumstances that would result in catastrophe, etc.

This is not to condone minimizing the intense suffering from this disorder, often done when a person describes a mildly quirky behavior by saying, “I am SO OCD!” People with OCD hate that, and I don’t blame them. It trivializes the disorder and their suffering.

What’s unique about your book?
It doesn’t just use a metaphor or story to illustrate a point when discussing certain aspects of OCD, as do many other books about this disorder. Instead, storytelling as a medium for delivering the treatment is the very focus of the entire text.

What was difficult about writing your book?
The stories that came to mind in therapy sessions and which I then shared with my clients were often personal and autobiographical. I would essentially draw on my own experience when telling these stories. When I submitted my manuscript, the publisher felt that as a whole the book was too autobiographical. So I had to rewrite many of the stories in the third person, as a generic tale about another person, or people in general, as opposed to presenting the stories as if I was sharing my own personal experiences.

Was there any funny moment when writing your book you would like to share with us?
I wouldn’t say so much funny as amusing.  I found as I was compiling the stories for the book, that there were so many aspects of the experience of OCD that I could relate to, and that I think most people, probably all people, could relate to.  To some degree this helps to “de-pathologize” or “normalize” the experience of having OCD- not to say there is not intense suffering-  but to de-stigmatize the disorder.

Who is this book for?
This was a problem from the very beginning. Book publishers want to know, “Is this for a professional audience, or for lay people?” It is important to them because they market books completely differently, depending on the target audience.  I felt that my book was unique, because, on the one hand, it spelled out the most basic, elementary aspects of what OCD is, and how the treatment for it works, and so it was an appropriate read for the most uninformed lay person.  On the other hand, the book introduces this information through a very specific and somewhat unique methodology, that of storytelling and the use of metaphor, so that even the most seasoned therapist, who might be very experienced in working with OCD, would learn new ways of presenting this information in therapy sessions.

Ultimately, I went with writing it as a book for professionals, but I did so without the use of much professional jargon, and so I tell people all the time that it is perfectly appropriate for the lay person who might know very little, or even nothing at all about OCD.

What drove you to write this book?
My desire to share the success I had achieved in using storytelling in the treatment of OCD.

What advice would you give to an OCD sufferer?
You mean besides reading my book and viewing my Youtube Video Tips series? :0)

Seriously, shop carefully for your therapist and psychiatrist. Make sure that person really understands the disorder and how to treat it. There are many out there who say they do, but don’t.  Take 2 minutes on the phone to interview them. Ask how they treat the disorder, and how many people have the helped.

I have seen many, many clients who have been in therapy with a half a dozen or even more therapist, sometimes for years, and they come to me having never even heard of Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) as a therapeutic intervention for OCD.

How has treating or addressing OCD impacted your life?
I have found it extremely gratifying. Mostly because I see people who have suffered greatly for many years regain significant control over their lives and find hope, and I am very thankful to be a part of that transition. But I have also found that I love the creativity involved in developing just the right exposure intervention to fit a specific OCD symptom and a particular person and his or her needs.

 

Check out Dr. Weg’s book and OCD tips.