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Behav Ther. 2019 May;50(3):515-530. doi: 10.1016/j.beth.2018.09.002. Epub 2018 Sep 11.

Translating CBM-I Into Real-World Settings: Augmenting a CBT-Based Psychiatric Hospital Program.

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McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Electronic address:
Temple University.
University of Virginia.
McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School.


Cognitive bias modification for interpretation (CBM-I) is an appealing augmentation to cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) because it targets cognitive bias efficiently via computerized training. Few studies have tested the combination of CBM-I and CBT, and none have translated lab-based CBM-I protocols to an acute psychiatric setting. The present study describes the development and implementation of CBM-I as an augmentation to a CBT-based partial hospital. We developed a transdiagnostic CBM-I based on the word-sentence association paradigm (WSAP), which reinforces individuals for endorsing benign interpretations and rejecting negative interpretations of ambiguous sentences. Over two iterations of development, we randomly assigned patients (N = 127; M age = 34.21; 58% female, 40% male, 2% nonbinary) to either CBM-I or a control group (Phase 1: neutral WSAP task; Phase 2: treatment as usual). CBM-I comprised daily sessions (10 minutes) completed during program hours, and number of sessions varied naturalistically according to patient length of stay. Primary outcomes included feasibility, acceptability, and target engagement (interpretation bias). CBM-I was feasible and acceptable to acute psychiatric patients, and successfully shifted interpretation for novel stimuli. Patient feedback suggested that participants viewed CBM-I as bolstering their primary CBT-based care. Exploratory analyses examining clinical benefit revealed a small between-group effect on anxiety severity (d = 0.378), but no group differences on depression outcomes (d = 0.008). Findings indicate that CBM-I is a feasible and acceptable augmentation to CBT-based partial hospital care. Future studies are warranted to determine who is most likely to benefit from this low-intensity approach.


CBT; cognitive bias modification; effectiveness; hospital; interpretation bias


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