Stephan Siwiec and colleagues recently published an article in the Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders (JOCRD) that tested the feasibility of a brief computerized cognitive bias modification for interpretations (CBM-I) training as a potential intervention to reduce thought-action fusion (TAF). TAF leads individuals to interpret the presence of unwanted mental intrusions as morally equivalent to acting on them (e.g. thoughts of infidelity are as bad as the act), and/or increasing the likelihood of the feared consequence (e.g. car accidents, cancer). TAF is an important cognitive bias in various emotional disorders, especially, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). CBM-I has been developed to challenge and replace disruptive interpretations with healthier ones, which in turn lessens the associated distress and grief. CBM-I is well accepted by participants, and the use of computers enables it to be easily disseminated. The study found that even a single session of computerized TAF-focused CBM-I training can meaningfully reduce TAF belief and decrease the related emotional distress experienced.
Stephan is building on these findings with his new dissertation study, which aims to determine if TAF-focused CBM-I can outperform a credible psychological comparison condition, stress management psychoeducation (SMP). SMP is a standard part of many emotional disorder treatments, and has shown relation to reductions in obsession severity without directly targeting TAF.
This is an exciting line of research as CBM-I displays promise as a potential complementary training to current empirically supported interventions. Therefore, if findings in the dissertation study are promising, the next step would be to determine the trainings efficacy in a clinical OCD population. Moreover, developing CBM-I for TAF has the potential for adaption to mobile technology (smart phones and tablets), which can be done in the privacy of one’s home, with no current cost associated with the trainings.