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Review of "The Dutiful Worrier"

By Elliot D. Cohen
New Harbinger, 2011
Review by James K. Luiselli, Ed.D., ABPP, BCBA-D on Feb 14th 2012
The Dutiful Worrier

In this self-help book Elliot D. Cohen posits, "When you dutifully worry, you are afraid that something catastrophic might happen unless you figure out a way to stop it. You experience losing-control anxiety, an excessive fear based on exaggeration of the risks, the seriousness of the stakes, and a misunderstanding about what you can and can't control." Excessive worrying certainly is a common affliction and a core feature of conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Cohen addresses the cognitive and behavioral aspects of worry, giving readers a few checklists and inventories that serve as self-evaluative tools. He makes some salient points throughout, notably that "dutiful worriers do not necessarily worry about everything," the object of worry is almost always future events or states of affairs, and the more you worry the more chronic it becomes. Most of the book covers cognitive-behavioral treatment (CBT) approaches, laid out in the form of exercises that are intended to help readers challenge irrational thinking, substitute alternative explanations, and perform "behavioral assignments" to promote success. Later chapters are less pragmatic and drift into tangential areas that are a bit meandering. As well, the book repeats certain themes and recommendations which, more times than not, is customary among similar self-help resources. I think, too, that Cohen is mistaken when he concludes that most people continue to worry because they believe that bad things will happen if they stop worrying, which will be their fault, making them a "bad person". Rather, the best parts of his book focus on worrying as a type of cognitive ruminating that is linked to perceived and real behavioral consequences independent of guilt and self-damnation. On whole, the book points in some useful directions, is likely to help some people, but demands that readers are able to process a lot of information and are highly motivated to implement a self-help plan.

© 2012 James K. Luiselli

James K. Luiselli, Ed.D., ABPP, BCBA-D is a psychologist affiliated with May Institute and a private-practice clinician. Among his publications are 9 books and more than 240 book chapters and journal articles. He reviews books for The New England Psychologist.

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