Further evidence for the efficacy of association splitting as a self-help technique for reducing obsessive thoughts

Steffen Moritz*, Lena Jelinek

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Despite improved treatment options, many people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) do not seek or even actively avoid therapy due to shame or fear of stigmatization. Self-help treatment is increasingly acknowledged as a means to "treat the untreated" and to motivate patients for face-to-face psychotherapy. Our group has gathered preliminary evidence for the efficacy of a novel self-help approach entitled association splitting (AS) aimed at the reduction of obsessions. Methods: For this study, a total of 46 participants with a likely diagnosis of OCD were randomly allocated to either AS or a waitlist control (WL). Treatment consisted of the self-study of a manual sent via e-mail. At baseline and four weeks later symptoms were assessed online using the self-report version of the Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS), the Obsessive-Compulsive Inventory-Revised (OCI-R), and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). Results: A total of 74% of the initial sample took part in the re-assessment. Results were in accordance with prior uncontrolled data indicating that AS is a feasible approach leading to a symptom decline of approximately 25% on the Y-BOCS. The technique also exerted a positive effect on depression (BDI) and the OCI-R subscale obsessive thoughts. Conclusions: The study confirms the feasibility and efficacy of AS for a subgroup of patients with OCD. Ongoing studies explore whether short-term effects are maintained over time and whether therapist-guided therapy may enhance the efficacy of AS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)574-581
Number of pages8
JournalDepression and Anxiety
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • association splitting
  • cognition
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • self-help
  • therapy


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