by: Cléa Desjardins
Dozens of leading psychology researchers are about to descend upon Concordia University for the annual Canadian Association of Cognitive and Behavioural Therapies conference (CACBT 2013). Among the conference presentations will be a new research project that looks at using cognitive behavioural therapy for treating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Cognitive behavioural therapy, or CBT, is widely known and respected as a highly effective form of “talk therapy” which emerges from laboratory-based research. Thanks in part to new research from Concordia University, it is quickly becoming an invaluable tool for treating serious mental health issues such as OCD, which affects 2 to 3 per cent of the Canadian population.
Adam Radomsky, Concordia psychology professor and a former CACBT president, is working with Gillian Alcolado, a PhD candidate in clinical psychology, on an important study of how CBT can be used to help to tap into false beliefs about one’s memory, and thereby reverse an often debilitating symptom of OCD: compulsive checking.
Research has shown that low confidence in one’s memory can be a factor that causes checking. In order to reduce compulsive checking, Alcolado and Radomsky came up with an intervention that targets low confidence in memory, or, more broadly, beliefs about that memory.
Explains Alcolado, “checking is a big problem for many people with OCD. They’re often unable to leave the house or lead normal lives because they can’t trust that they’ve properly completed a simple task like turning off the stove. They just don’t trust their memory that they performed the simple task and so are incapacitated by the false belief that their action or inaction will burn the house down – or worse.”
The researchers have now embarked upon an ongoing pilot study that puts this new aspect of treatment into practice. They’re already seeing encouraging results. “Through behavioural experiments aimed at determining whether or not our patients’ memory abilities were better than they thought, we gathered preliminary evidence that this intervention could be incorporated into existing treatment packages for compulsive checking, regardless of whether the client has previously complained of trouble with their memory,” says Alcolado.
Alcolado hopes to recruit new participants for this study so that she can continue her research and devise a new standard of treatment for those who suffer from OCD. “By broadening our participant pool, we can assess whether this is a treatment option that will work for any number of people suffering from OCD,” says Alcolado, who will continue the study as she completes her doctorate under Radomsky’s supervision at Concordia University.
Many more important new projects involving CBT will be discussed at the upcoming CACBT conference, which will take place from May 23 to 25, 2013, on Concordia’s downtown Sir George Williams Campus. Keynote addresses on subjects ranging from youth anxiety to psychosis will be presented, as will panel discussions devoted to getting the word out about the effectiveness of CBT for a wide range of mental health problems; participants will have the chance to interact with leading psychology researchers from around the world.