Finding X: One Family’s Solution to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Paperback

Recommended Reading –

Finding X: One Family’s Solution to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

by Joni St John (Author) , Ray St John (Author)
Finding X is the sequel to Ray St. John’s first book on OCD – The Ray of Hope. You can see my review here:
Finding X refers to the process of working through all the personal variables that OCD can manifest in one’s life, and coming to a set of responses that represents the solution that works for you – X. In this second book, Ray teams up with his mother, Joni, as co-author. She reveals her own observations about how a personal experience with  OCD has infiltrated her life – and how her own mother was likely suffering similarly in her lifetime. It takes some bravery to come forward like this.
Part I – The Author’s Personal Stories
The takeaway message in this early section: correct diagnosis is critical to recovery.
The first part of Finding X takes the reader through how OCD invaded Ray’s life and the life of the family over the course of time. It is noteworthy that Ray’s trouble with OCD started in childhood, and returned repeatedly over time to confound everyone. The reader is introduced to the phenomena of triggers, compulsive responses and the interpersonal aspects of the disorder. Clearly, Ray and his mom got caught up in the all-too-common pattern of anxiety generation, avoidance, and reassurance seeking. Of course, loving parents persist in giving reassurance freely. Only later did everyone realize how counterproductive this can be. Of course, everyone was doing their best to deal with the situation. Later, once Ray and Joni learned how to use Exposure & Response Prevention strategies, things got better. However, even as their book went to press, they were dealing with yet another round of symptoms.
Part II – Understanding the Nature of OCD
One of the toughest things for those who have never experienced OCD is to imagine what the experience is for those who do. Joni and Ray contribute passages to try to answer this question. Yes, it is pain. And, yes, it is [or can be] a continuous stream of thoughts internal to a person that interferes with the quality of life. It does so by devious means: introducing a sense of personal responsibility, danger or vulnerability, and the uncertainty of just about everything. Can I trust my senses, my memory, my actions – all these and more are part of the mix.
Ray and Joni reflect on the role of genetics and environment in the development of OCD. While research continues in this area, there seems to be a consensus that genetics is the foundation for the disorder. Both authors wonder about the influence of home life. While being willing to consider whether there is anything tangible to grasp onto, I think most families will likely come up empty on finding a definitive answer here. From what I can tell, most families cannot avoid OCD if the predisposition is there. No one to blame.
From there, the authors turn to the topic of co-morbidity, how this increases suffering, and how this complicates treatment. Joni grapples with the question of whether she influenced the sexual obsessions that her son developed; Ray has decided to live without knowing definitively. In the end, that is likely the better approach. I hope Joni can get there someday, too.
Part III – Exposure & Response Behavior Therapy
I appreciate the co-authors efforts to describe the process of ERP therapy. Generally, when people are dealing with an anxiety-based problem, they look for relief: antidepressant and/or tranquilizer medications, relaxation exercises – just about anything to reduce the distress in the mind and body. Medications can help reduce some symptoms, but is rarely the whole solution. When told that ERP therapy requires people to face trouble, to intentionally trigger discomfort, any number of my clients have wondered if I knew what I was doing. Fortunately, I attended training with the OC Foundation [] several years ago – and now have an accumulation of treatment successes to share with clients. But some people drop out after one session – not ready to try this approach. The authors bear this out vividly.
What impresses me in this part of the book is the toughness and courage each person demonstrated. It is impossible to know in advance whether you are pushing too hard or nudging too little. You find out over time, and adjust as needed. The nice thing here is that both Joni and Ray are able to report progress, right from the beginning. It’s hard to say whether others could get the same results in the same time. But the validation of the process is the important message here.
Part IV – additional resources
We discover how Ray and Joni found creative ways of relating to one another and to OCD. They found ways to externalize the problem that worked for them. I bet this was one of the keys to their success. Yes, there is little doubt [though I could be wrong] that the tools of ERP were fundamental to progress. But, I can’t help but think that the ways they brought tenderness and humanity into their process made a huge difference.
Next, the authors share their thoughts on medications, and their potential role in treatment for OCD. The main message here: to use them is a big decision, it takes a while to find out if a particular medication will ease suffering – and no single medication will likely be perfect.
This section comes to a close with a useful review of ideas that assist with overall coping: engagement at school; exercise; making time for friends and family.
Part V – Wrapping Up
In this final section, Ray and Joni reflect on their relationship to one another, to OCD and to others who seek information on its nature and treatment. It’s clear that OCD has left its fingerprint on each of their lives. This section is thought-provoking and the reader will find their insights into media/TV/movie portrayals of OCD to be of value.
Of special importance, the book comes to a close with a thorough list of the resources that the authors used in Ray’s treatment – and a resource list for further learning.
This is not a textbook; not a treatment guide. On the other hand, you will be able to learn something about the interior of the experience of OCD and the hell it can create for sufferers and their families. Perhaps it will also offer inspiration and hope to those who are considering ERP therapy, but are holding back – thinking that it might be too hard or take too long or not work well enough. I recommend it to you, and hope you agree.
To purchase: or [print and Kindle versions available] or

Exposure therapy good addition for OCD treatment, study suggests | Fox News

I received training in this specialized form of therapy from the International Obsessive Compulsive Foundation several years ago. In my experience, it is an invaluable set of tools to bring to the task of helping master OCD’s most insidious aspects. Call me or send a message if you have questions.

Exposure therapy good addition for OCD treatment, study suggests | Fox News

Book Review & Recommendation: The Ray of Hope

The Ray of Hope – A Teenager’s Fight Against Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
written by Ray St. John
Vermilion Press – 2011

I received a review copy of The Ray of Hope some months ago, with the best of intentions to have a look at it. I placed it on the continuously growing stack of items that I vow to read ‘when I get around to it’. I imagine you’ve done the same thing. A couple weeks ago, I got a follow-up email from the publisher. That got me back to the book. I’m glad I did.

Ray St. John is a high school student that has been dealing with episodes of OCD since childhood. Early manifestations were short-lived – and, at the time of their occurrence, seen as transitory. No special action was taken. But in his teens, Ray was hit hard with OCD symptoms. This time around, there was no chance of ignoring them. This book documents Ray’s [and Ray’s family’s] journey to identify what was going on – and how to confront it successfully.

The book is arranged in such a way as to give the reader great accessibility to the content that matters to his or her interests. Chapter titles are in the form of questions – and each corresponding chapter gives the answer. In this way, the reader can either choose to read cover-to-cover, or just seek out the specific information he or she needs at the moment. It might sound cumbersome, but here it works well.

The writing style is clear and emphatic. Ray shows courage in being explicit about the content of his obsessions and compulsive responses. We learn about the depth of his suffering, his self-doubt, and the process that he and his family went through to seek relief. He worked very hard, and it paid off for him.

Ray was troubled with sexual obsessions – they flooded his thoughts continuously. It interfered with home life and school progress. Resultant compulsions took the the family through considerable amounts of water, soap, repetition, checking, reassurance seeking and – let’s be honest – a very personal kind of hell.

A person with OCD can be triggered by lots of things – and reading this might be one of them. In the end, though, the benefits outweigh the dangers.

Ray eventually got connected to a psychiatrist and a psychologist. Two different medication trials without much relief – followed with the challenges of weening off the medications that proved unsatisfactory. The psychologist was compassionate, and knew something about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – but was not familiar with Exposure & Response Prevention [ERP] Therapy. ERP is the specific therapy – a cousin to CBT – that is the best psychotherapy approach we know about at this time.

Ray and his mother learned as much as they could about ERP, and devised their own intensive outpatient intervention. I was impressed with their courage and tenacity; it would be tough for many families to intervene in this way. However, it worked for Ray.

The lessons from Ray’s book that come to mind as I write:

  • facing what is going on, what works [and what does not] is critical
  • the importance of family involvement and support cannot be underestimated
  • medication may be an option, but it is not the whole answer
  • you must choose your therapist carefully – specialized training is essential
  • ERP is a stressful process, but
  • it works!
The publisher tells me that Ray is in the midst of a follow up book – one that will point the reader in the direction of managing OCD as one moves into adulthood. I look forward to it!
The link above to Vermilion Press will take you to the site established by Ray’s family to provide information about the book, and does provide some samples passages from the book. You’ll also find links to purchase it. Amazon will send you a hard copy, if desired – or you can download a Kindle version. Remember, you don’t need a Kindle device – you can read on your computer or other device with free Kindle software from Amazon.

Readers: Contribute to OCD Research!

This might not appeal to everyone, but check out this opportunity:

Readers: Contribute to OCD Research!: “

We received this request and would like to pass it along to anyone interested in participating in this study. Research into the causes of OCD can lead to better treatment. We hope that the research contributes new knowledge about OCD and that those who participate find the experience to be rewarding. Good luck!

Dear Drs. Smith and Elliot

Thank you for your recent posts on your blog about anxiety and OCD. Many of us have routines or even eccentric superstitions that get us through the day; we read our horoscopes every morning, keep our calendars clean and up-to-date, or pray each night. But for the 2.2 million American adults suffering from OCD, unceasing thoughts and compulsions can get in the way of living. These symptoms of OCD are not mere habits but persistent, distressing and, at times, debilitating impediments.