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Christine Purdon


Head shot of Christine PurdonBA(Hon) University of Western Ontario

MA University of New Brunswick

PhD University of New Brunswick

Contact information

On sabbatical overseas until July, 2018

Graduate program applicants

I am hoping to take a new student for the Fall of 2016. If you are planning to apply this fall please see the description of my research interests and Frequently Asked Questions below.

Research interests

As a dedicated scientist-practitioner I am interested in research that helps us understand the development, persistence and treatment of anxiety difficulties. My experiences in treating people with anxiety difficulties helps shape the kind of research questions I ask. My central research goal is to find better ways of helping people overcome anxiety difficulties.

Visual attention to emotional stimuli

My students and I are interested in the development and persistence of anxious thoughts characteristic of anxiety, mood and obsessive-compulsive and related disorders. Drawing from research on attentional biases to threat, mind wandering, mindfulness and emotion regulation literatures, we study why unwanted thoughts persist despite our strenuous efforts to overcome them. 

Participant wearing eye tracking helmetOur research makes use of eye tracking technology to study visual attention to threat images and to actual threat stimuli in the real environment, using stationary and portable eye trackers. 


studying participant looking a tarantula spiderBitsy, our resident tarantula, helps us with this line of research. 

Phenomenology and persistence of compulsions

picture of a stove in research labMy students and I are also interested in the phenomenology of obsessions and compulsions. There is surprisingly little research on the phenomenology of OCD. We do not know much about the form that obsessions take (thought, image, impulse, doubt), the parameters of compulsions (e.g., length of compulsive episodes, number of repetitions within), nor the circumstances under which compulsions achieve their goal vs. need to be repeated. Our ability to treat OCD has not improved in over 30 years, remaining at an unimpressive 50% success rate. We believe that developing a richer understanding of obsessions and compulsions will translate into improved treatment. Our lab is equipped with a fully functioning kitchen to study compulsions.

We are always seeking people with and without anxiety difficulties, obsessional thoughts and/or repetitive behaviours (e.g., washing, checking, ordering/arranging) willing to participate in research – if you are interested please click here!                     

Teaching interests

I teach courses in clinical psychology. At the undergraduate level, I teach Psychology 457, an Honours Seminar in Anxiety Disorders. Prior to that I taught Psychology 336 (Introduction to Clinical Psychology). More distantly, I have taught courses in Abnormal Psychology and Personality. At the graduate level, I teach Psychology 725, which is a skills course in cognitive-behaviour therapy.

All clinical faculty also supervise the psychological services that are provided in the CMHR. I thus supervise 2 PhD students who are treating adults with mood and anxiety problems.

My teaching ratings have been consistently at or above the average of the Department of Psychology, which has the highest overall course ratings in the Faculty of Arts. 

Clinical interests

I am a Registered Psychologist with the College of Psychologists of Ontario. I have expertise in the assessment and treatment of mood and anxiety disorders in adults. I have especial expertise in cognitive-behaviour therapy and am certified by the Canadian Association of Cognitive and Behavioural Therapies (CABCT). I provide psychological services through the UW Centre for Mental Health Research Unsubsidized Psychological Services stream. For inquiries contact me by email ( or phone, 519-888-4567, x33912.

Publications (student co-authors in bold)


Co-authored and co-edited

  • Purdon, C., & Clark, D. A. (2005). Overcoming obsessional thoughts. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.
  • Antony, M. M., Purdon, C., & Summerfeldt, L. J. (2006). Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Beyond the Basics. American Psychological Association Press.

Selected book chapters 

  • Purdon, C., & Chiang, B. (in press). Treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder. In A. Carr and M. McNulty (Eds.), The Handbook of Adult Clinical Psychology: An Evidence Based Practice Approach 2nd Edition (pp. XX-XX). Oxford: Routledge.
  • ​​Purdon, C. (2012). Assessing co-morbidity, family, and functioning in OCD. In G. Steketee (Ed.), Oxford handbook of obsessive compulsive and spectrum disorders. (pp. 275 – 290).Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Purdon, C. (2009). Psychological approaches to understanding obsessive-compulsive disorder. In M. Stein and M. M. Antony (Eds.), Handbook of Anxiety and the Anxiety Disorders (pp. 238-249). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Purdon, C. (2008). Unacceptable obsessions and covert compulsions. In S. Taylor, J. Abramowitz and D. McKay (Eds.), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Subtypes and Spectrum Conditions (pp. 61-75). Johns Hopkins University Press.

Selected peer-reviewed publications 

  • Bucarelli, B., & Purdon, C. (in press). A diary study of the phenomenology and persistence of compulsions. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry.
  • Seli, P., Cheyne, J. A., Xu, M., Purdon, C., & Smilek, D. (in press). Motivation, intentionality and mind-wandering: Implications for assessments of task-unrelated thought. Journal of Experimental Psychology Learning Memory and Cognition.
  • Nelson, A., Purdon, C., Quigley, L., Carrier, J., & Smilek, D. (2015). Distinguishing the roles of trait and state anxiety on the nature of anxiety-related attentional biases to threat using a free viewing eye movement paradigm. Cognition and Emotion, 29, 504-526.
  • Coehlo, J., Baeyans, C., Purdon, C., Shafran, R., Moulin, L-L, & Bouvard, M. (2013). Assessment of thought-shape fusion (TSF): Initial validation of a short version of the trait TSF scale. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 46, 77-85.
  • Cougle, J. R., Purdon, C., Fitch, K. E., & Hawkins, K. A. (2013). Clarifying relations between thought action fusion, religiosity, and obsessive-compulsive symptoms through consideration of intent. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 37, 221-231.
  • Coelho, J.S., Baeyens, C., Purdon, C., Pitet, A., & Bouvard, M. (2012). Cognitive distortions and eating pathology: Specificity of thought-shape fusion. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 50, 449-456.
  • Quigley, L., Nelson, A., Carriere, J., Smilek, D., & Purdon, C. (2012). The effects of trait and state anxiety on the time course of attention to emotional images. Cognition and Emotion, 1390-1411.
  • Purdon, C., Gifford, S., McCabe, R., & Antony, M. M. (2011). Thought dismissability in obsessive-compulsive disorder versus panic disorder. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 49, 646-653.
  • Watson, C., Burley, M., & Purdon, C. (2010). Verbal repetition in the reappraisal of contamination-related thoughts. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 38, 337-353.
  • Clark, D. A., & Purdon, C. (2009). Mental control of unwanted intrusive thoughts: A phenomenological study of nonclinical individuals. International Journal of Cognitive Therapy, 2, 267-281.
  • Markowitz, L. J., & Purdon, C. (2008). Predictors and consequences of suppressing obsessions. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 36, 179-192.
  • Purdon, C., Cripps, E., Faull, M., Joseph, S., & Rowa, K. (2007). Development of a measure of ego-dystonicity. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 21, 198-216.
  • Purdon, C., Rowa, K., & Antony, M. M. (2007). Diary records of thought suppression by individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 35, 47-59.
  • Rowa, K., Purdon, C., Summerfeldt, L., & Antony, M. M. (2005). Why are some obsessions more upsetting than others? Behaviour Research and Therapy, 43, 1453-1465.
  • Purdon, C., Rowa, K., & Antony, M. M. (2005). Thought suppression and its effects on thought frequency, appraisal and mood state in individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 43, 93-108.
  • Purdon, C. (2004). Empirical investigations of thought suppression in OCD. Behaviour Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 35, 121-136.

Professional memberships

  •   College of Psychologists of Ontario, Registered Psychologist
  •   Canadian Association of Cognitive and Behavioural Therapies
  •   British Association of Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies
  •  Canadian Psychological Association

Frequently asked questions

Are you taking a student next year?

  • Yes, I hope to take a new student for Fall, 2016

Should I contact you to ask whether or not you are taking a student, or to alert you to my application?

  • I love to hear about new and interesting work, so please don’t hesitate to contact me to let me know about your research! Please bear in mind that for reasons of fairness we cannot evaluate or “earmark” applicants outside of our admissions process, which begins after the application deadline. We do not begin evaluating applications until we can look at them all together, and we also want to avoid unfairly disadvantaging students who are shy to write us directly outside the application process.

What do I look for in a student?

  • I really like working together with my students as a team on a shared journey of discovery. The students in my lab have a keen interest in understanding the development and persistence of anxiety problems from an empirical perspective. I look for students who are intellectually curious, who enjoy discovery and who love sharing their discoveries with the world.

How can I make my application more competitive?

  • We receive about 150 applications per year for 4-6 positions in our program. Our first cut is based on your marks in Psychology courses and on GRE scores, so, keep working hard and be sure to study hard for your GRE!
  • Use your statement to convey how our program is a good fit for you and vice versa, and how your research interests fit with mine. I know that the application process is very taxing, especially if you are applying while completing your final year of undergraduate studies. However, please be mindful that my task is to select students who will thrive in our program and be a good fit to work in my lab. If you present a generic statement it is a lot harder for me to tell whether we are right for each other. Another good idea is to use your statement to tell us about the ideas you explored in your honours thesis - as I said, I love hearing about new research! Don’t worry if you didn’t find what you were looking for – that is part of the research process! I’m still interested in hearing about what piqued your curiosity, how you studied it and what you make of the data you found.
  • It’s a really great idea to apply for external funding at the same time you are applying to graduate school. This will help you better identify and articulate your research interests, both for yourself and for us and it helps you demonstrate how serious you are about research. Also, should you be receive funding it removes the burden of having to apply for external funding in your very first weeks of a very challenging program.

What if the research I outline in my application for external funding doesn’t seem to fit directly into the work that you (or others at UW) are doing?

  • I know that you have not had a lot of time or experience to develop fully formed research interests. However, in any research grant proposal the research will be informed by general underlying questions (e.g., why do unwanted thoughts persist?), even if the research questions themselves are quite specific (e.g., what is the effect of a mood manipulation on perceived self-worth?). As long as the general questions that interest you fit with my work we will be in good shape to work together.
University of Waterloo

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