Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy

Research Article

Socially Anxious Primary Care Patients’ Attitudes Toward Cognitive Bias Modification (CBM): A Qualitative Study

Courtney Bearda1 c1, Risa B. Weisberga1 and Jennifer Primacka2

a1 Alpert Medical School of Brown University, USA

a2 Alpert Medical School of Brown University and Butler Hospital, USA


Background: Cognitive bias modification (CBM) is a novel treatment for anxiety disorders that utilizes computerized tasks to train attention and interpretation biases away from threat. To date, attitudes toward and acceptability of CBM have not been systematically examined. Method: We conducted qualitative interviews with 10 anxious primary care patients to examine attitudes toward and initial impressions of CBM. Interviews explored general impressions, as well as reactions to the treatment rationale and two computer programs, one targeting attention bias and one targeting interpretation bias. Three clinical psychologists independently coded transcripts and collaboratively developed categories and themes guided by grounded theory. Results: A number of facilitators and barriers emerged related to engaging in treatment in general, computerized treatment, and CBM specifically. Participants stated that the written rationale for CBM seemed relevant and helpful. However, after interacting with the attention modification program, participants frequently expressed a lack of understanding about how the program would help with anxiety. Participants reported greater understanding and engagement with the interpretation modification program. Conclusions: Participants reported a number of positive characteristics of CBM, but it may need improvements regarding its treatment rationale and credibility. Future qualitative studies with individuals who complete a CBM treatment are warranted. Implications for future CBM development and dissemination are discussed.

(Online publication November 30 2011)


c1 Reprint requests to Courtney Beard, Brown University, Box G-BH, Providence, RI 02912, USA. E-mail: