How Christ can heal OCD

by Nov 12, 2008

Psychiatrist Ian Osborn believes that modern treatments for obsessive-compulsive disorder are (unintentionally) confirming the ancient biblical doctrine of imputation: in order to find healing, we need to trade our sin for Christ’s righteousness. From a review of his new book:

By examining the autobiographical accounts of Martin Luther, John Bunyan, and St. Thérèse of Lisieux, a popular 19th-century Carmelite nun, Osborn presents convincing cases that each struggled with OCD and overcame it through a deepening trust in God. This last point makes the book noteworthy, if not notorious, since the author is suggesting that Christian doctrine held the key to their cures.

Of greatest relevance to the author’s argument is a newly developed cognitive treatment for OCD called “responsibility transfer therapy” (RTT). In this model, the OCD sufferer is encouraged to hand responsibility for the problematic behavior over to another person. So, for example, a sufferer may allow someone else to monitor whether the oven is turned off, so they don’t have to obsess over whether it is. For reasons unclear, researchers have found RTT to be a successful form of treatment. Osborn conjectures that OCD sufferers may be helped by “transferring responsibility to God,” so to speak — a significant, untested shift in the application of RRT, it must be said — and he suggests the three Christian giants found their cure by doing that.

“In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them… for our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:19-21).