We’ve just finished the Cheltenham Science Festival here – an excellent event with dozens of talks, events, debates, mad experiments and other events. One of my highlights this year was the session on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, featuring two scientists and a recovering OCD sufferer talking about what’s known and what’s being researched about OCD. There was general agreement that cognitive behavioural therapy was well proved with such cases, and the lady who had suffered with OCD spoke very movingly about her journey to a better life.
Professor Paul M Salkovskis from Kings College London (http://www.iop.kcl.ac.uk/staff/profile/default.aspx?go=10127) talked about his reseach programme. He revealed a very interesting finding that I had not previously come across: people who are given a biological explanation of their OCD do better at changing it that those given a psychological explanation. Paul said that they had been allowed to carry out this part of their work with support from the ethics committee as the explanation had been given at a very early stage of treatment and there was plenty of time to sort things out afterwards, so none of the subjects’ recoveries was hindered by this.
This finding seems to divide people. Some (including me) think it’s quite a logical conclusion, as biological changes can (perhaps) be effected with all kinds of methods these days. Others (including my partner Jenny) think that a psychological route would be easier than a biological one. Anyway, that’s what Prof Salkovskis said. It chimes rather well in any case with my writing in The Solutions Focus about the power of explanations to get in the way of change, particularly if the explanation does not offer a way forwards. We used the term ‘helpful explanation’ and unhelpful explanation’.
One other thing about Prof Salkovskis’ talk was the great ridicule he poured on brain scans. The other researcher showed some brain images, which he dismissed as ‘the new phrenology’! His view was that these things tell us very little that’s of any use, and yet a lot of time and money are being spent on obtaining them. Hear hear say I.