Book Review: In Your Own Hands: New Hope for People with Chronic Medical Conditions by Dr. Larry Berkelhammer

In Your Own Hands: New Hope for People with Chronic Medical Conditions – Mindfulness-Based Practices for Mastery and Wellbeing. Larry Berkelhammer, PhDDr Larry Berkelhammer first appeared on in a Trail Blazer Interview (here). A psychotherapist, author and researcher, Dr. Berkelhammer believes millions of people who live with chronic medical conditions can manage their pain through various mind-training techniques. As a sought-after teacher on pain management, and with 19 years in private practice treating patients, Dr. Berkelhammer’s interview resonated with the community. Now, his book, In Your Own Hands: New Hope for People with Chronic Medical Conditions (Empowered Patient Coalition Press, Jan. 2014, 978-0991243709) has arrived, and it’s one that connects just as deeply.

Dr. Larry Berkelhammer lives with seven chronic illnesses himself and has made it his mission to help others live fuller lives in spite of chronic conditions. It’s a timely tome; today, 133 million Americans – nearly half of all adults – live with some sort of chronic medical condition. A Johns Hopkins University study reports 75 percent of health care costs in America are spent on people with chronic illness, including cancer, heart disease and autoimmune disease. America’s most common disability, arthritis, affects a staggering one in five adults. With the number of people affected by chronic illness rising, Dr. Berkelhammer notes that In Your Own Hands not only deals with chronic illness, but is “about how we live our lives. Readers will learn how to identify value-based behaviors and live in accordance with those personal life values to maximize well-being.”

Indeed, the doctor combines his personal and professional experience as patient and licensed psychotherapist, then proposes an action-based approach to change the lives of those with chronic illness. In Your Own Hands is a pragmatic guide that uses science-based practices invaluable for empowering readers to truly take their lives into their own hands, despite physical limitations. His philosophy on the nature of disease and suffering coupled with his expertise as a licensed psychotherapist, prove compelling cornerstones for a book unafraid to tackle both science and solutions.

Dr. Berkelhammer’s work is a hefty 417 pages, but reads like a well laid out anthology. Chocked full of so much – and such powerful – information, this reader found it best to take all the wisdom offered in measured sips rather than large gulps, to appreciate it fully.

In Your Own Hands skillfully guides readers through Dr. Berkelhammer’s unique three-part mindfulness-based mastery system and his scientifically proven mindfulness-based mastery practices to improve overall health. Additionally, the book delivers his methods for discovering – and living by – one’s personal values, and a series of well-being practices that focus on a variety of useful skill sets, from embracing gratitude to finding humour.

These exercises alone ensure the book is an excellent investment, but what’s made it priceless for me personally, are the comprehensive appendices that have served as easy to use resources over and over again. They include specific sections for caregivers, the science of mindfulness, conscious breathing, and the cultivation of medical self-efficacy – how to become an empowered patient. Many of these critical areas are often overlooked in similar publications, and much of the practical advice for medical self-efficiency and advocacy simply cannot be approached in Dr. Berkelhammer’s authentic way unless you’ve been a patient yourself.

In Your Own Hands: New Hope for People with Chronic Medical Conditions is, quite simply, the book I searched high and low for when I first became ill, and could not find. Now, this vault of richly layered, easy to digest information and principals is available to all.