The Cognitive Behaviour Therapist

Original Research

The treatment of magical ideation in two individuals with obsessive compulsive disorder

Danielle A. Einsteina1 c1, Ross G. Menziesa2, Tamsen St Clarea3, Juliette Drobnya3 and Fjola Dogg Helgadottira2

a1 Behavioural and Social Sciences in Health, The University of Sydney; and Department of Medical Psychology, Westmead Hospital, NSW, Australia

a2 Behavioural and Social Sciences in Health, The University of Sydney, NSW, Australia

a3 Anxiety Treatment and Research Unit, Department of Medical Psychology, Westmead Hospital, NSW, Australia

Abstract

Data collected from clinical populations indicate that magical ideation (MI) may play a causal or a mediating role in the expression of obsessive compulsive symptoms. If this is the case then when targeted in treatment, symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) should be altered. Two individuals diagnosed with OCD received a trial treatment targeting magical thinking. The intervention consisted of a series of procedures designed to undermine superstitious/MI without targeting obsessions or compulsions. The procedures involved critical analysis of the following material: (1) a free astrology offer; (2) a horoscope prediction exercise; (3) a description of four different cultural explanations of the origin of fire; (4) an instructive guide for Tarot card readers; (5) a report of a UFO sighting; (6) a video-clip describing a cult festival; (7) a description of a ‘hoax’ channeler and (8) a superstition exercise. Measures of obsessive compulsive symptoms, superstition, MI and thought–action fusion were administered pre-treatment, post-treatment and at 3 months’ follow-up. According to the twofold criterion of Jacobson et al. (Behaviour Therapy 1984, 15, 336–352), following treatment the patients were identified as being recovered on measures of magical and superstitious thinking and on the Padua Inventory.

(Received March 21 2010)

(Accepted November 01 2010)

(Online publication December 13 2010)

Correspondence:

c1 Address for correspondence: Dr D. A. Einstein, Centre for Emotional Health, Macquarie University, NSW, Australia. (email: danielle.einstein@gmail.com)

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