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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     

Are you interested in participating in research?

Graduate program applicants 

Lab Space 

Clinical interests and practice


Frequently asked questions 

Working in my lab



Are you interested in participating in research?

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!                     

Graduate program applicants

Are you interested in joining a collaborative, curious, and enthusiastic group of people who are trying to figure out why anxiety persists and how better to treat it? I have two spaces in my research lab!

Visual attention to threat

One line of research examines how anxiety and emotion regulation goals influence our attention to internal and external information. This is a broad question that seeks to better understand why anxiety persists, even in the face of disconfirming information. Using eye-tracking technology and mood induction, my students and I examine visual attention to threat cues under different mood states. We are keen to better understand how motivation to avoid threat vs. attend to threat influences viewing patterns. For example, are people who are motivated to avoid threat actually able to do so? If so, how does avoidance influence their anxiety over the threatening stimulus?

The persistence of compulsions

My second line of research examines the persistence of compulsions in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Surprisingly, we know very little about compulsions. Sometimes compulsions “work” for people (that is, they are able to reduce their anxiety over the obsessional concern and move on with their day), and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they work right away, and sometimes they are repeated. Sometimes there is an ironic effect of repetition, such that people feel less, rather than more, certain it is okay to stop, but sometimes repetition yields a sense of certainty. I think that if we better understand the factors that influence the course of a compulsion we can better help people resist them.

If you are planning to apply this fall please also see Frequently Asked Questions below. Please also be sure to have a good look at our Clinical program website.

Lab Space

My students have access to lab space with state-of-the-art eye tracking equipment and a lab kitchen with a working stove and sink, equipped with video feed. As part of the Anxiety Studies Division of the Centre for Mental Health Research and Treatment we are also able to recruit participants from the community with and without anxiety disorders and OCD.

participant wearing eye tracking helmet Study participant viewing tarantula


We have a kitchenette with fully functioning stove and sink, equipped with video cameras from two angles.

Stove Sink in Dr. Purdon's lab

Clinical interests and practice

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 and Treatment 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. (2017). Responsibility, thought action fusion and thought control in obsessive-compulsive disorder. In C. Pittenger (Ed.), Obsessive-compulsive Disorder: Phenomenology, Pathophysiology, and Treatment (pp. XX-XX). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Purdon, C., & Chiang, B. (2016). Treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder. In A. Carr and M. McNulty (Eds.), The Handbook of Adult Clinical Psychology: An Evidence Based Practice Approach (2nd Ed.) (pp. 492-514). 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

  1. Chiang, B., & Purdon, C. (in press). Have I done enough to avoid blame? Fear of guilt evokes OCD-like indecisiveness. Journal of Obsessive Compulsive and Related Disorders.
  2. Moritz, S., Purdon, C., Jelinek, L., & Chiang, B. (2017). If it is absurd then why do you do it? The richer the obsessional experience, the more compelling the compulsion. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 1-7.
  3. Clark, D. A., & Purdon, C. (2016). Still cognitive after all these years? Perspectives for a cognitive behavioural theory of obsessions and where we are 30 years later: A commentary. Invited commentary for the Australian Psychologist, 51, 14-17.
  4. Bucarelli, B., & Purdon, C. (2016). Stove checking behaviour in OCD vs. anxious controls. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 53, 17-24.
  5. Chiang, B., Purdon, C., & Radomsky, A. (2016). Development and initial validation of the Fear of Guilt Scale for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders, 11, 63-73.
  6. Taylor, J., & Purdon, C. (2016). Responsibility and hand washing. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 51, 43-50.
  7. Collaton, J., & Purdon, C. (2015). Verbalizations during compulsions in OCD. Journal of Obsessive Compulsive and Related Disorders, 7, 49-53.
  8. Bucarelli, B., & Purdon, C. (2015). A diary study of the phenomenology and persistence of compulsions. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 49, 209-215.
  9. Moscovitch, D.A., Shaughnessy, K., Waechter, S., Xu, M., Collaton, J., Nelson, A.L., Barber, K.C., Dean, J., Chiang, B., & Purdon, C. (2015). A model for recruiting clinical research participants in the absence of service provision: Visions, challenges, and norms within a Canadian context. Journal of Mental and Nervous Disease, 203, 943-957.
  10. Seli, P., Cheyne, J. A., Xu, M., Purdon, C., & Smilek, D. (2015). Motivation, intentionality and mind-wandering: Implications for assessments of task-unrelated thought. Journal of Experimental Psychology Learning Memory and Cognition, 41, 1417-1425.
  11. Nelson, A., Purdon, C., Quigley, L., Carriere, 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.
  12. Rowa, K., Gifford, S., McCabe, R., Milosevic, I., Antony, M. M., & Purdon, C. (2014). Treatment fears in anxiety disorders: Development and validation of the Treatment Ambivalence Questionnaire. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 70, 979-993.

Frequently asked questions

Are you taking a student next year?

  • Yes, plan to take 1 or 2 students for Fall, 2019; please see above

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

  • No, but 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 opt not 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.

What is it like to work with me?

This is what my current and recent students have to say!

“I am profoundly appreciative of the time I have spent working with Dr. Purdon; it has been a supportive, productive, enriching, and rewarding growing experience, rife with opportunities (papers, book chapters, conference presentations, etc.) and support when I have been in need. I feel assured that we will collaborate and remain in touch beyond the scope of my graduate training; to you, Christine, my heartfelt thanks!”

-Brenda, Residency year

“Christine provides her students with a great balance of support and independence. She expresses a genuine interest in the wellbeing of her students and her research and clinical expertise are a phenomenal resource.”

-Jasmine, Pre-Residency year

“Christine is always available whether you want to chat about research, clinical work, or navigating through graduate school! She enables her students to build a personalized program of research!”

-Mengran Xu, Residency year (PhD defended)

"Christine cares about the needs of her students, and our lab space is unique and ideal for studying OCD".

-Olivia, First year PhD

Graduate student in Dr. Purdon's lab Graduate student in Dr. Purdon's lab Graduate student in Dr. Purdon's lab
University of Waterloo

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