The Thought Control Questionnaire (TCQ) is a
30-item instrument devised by
Adrian Wells and Mark I. Davies (1994)
to assess the effectiveness of strategies used for the control of unpleasant and
Intrusive and subjectively uncontrollable thoughts
are a central feature of numerous anxiety disorders such as obsessive-compulsive
disorder, generalised anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
They also occur in other disorders such as depression and
hypochondriasis. The concept of
controlling one’s thoughts effectively is implicit in several treatment
approaches for these problems such as thought stopping, controlled worry
periods, cognitive re-appraisal and the use of distraction techniques. However
several studies have suggested that some strategies produce an increase in the
frequency of suppressed thoughts which would play an important role in the
maintenance of the disorders(Wells et al., 1994). Hence the need for an
instrument capable of measuring which strategies produce effective control of
The TCQ was developed to provide a measure of the
various techniques which individuals use to control unpleasant and unwanted
thoughts. It also explores the relationship between the use of different
strategies and measures of stress vulnerability and psychopathology.
Recent studies indicate that the TCQ scales appear
to be sensitive to changes associated with recovery (Adrian Wells and Martina
Reynolds, 2000) which would suggest that it is a useful instrument for measuring
the effectiveness of strategies for controlling unwanted thoughts.
The TCQ is a 30 item self report questionnaire. Items are scored on a four point rating scale with 1 = never, 2 = sometimes, 3 = often; 4 = almost always The TCQ measure five factors that correspond to different strategies for controlling unwanted thoughts: Distraction (item 1,9,16,19,21 and 30); Social Control(items 5, 8, 12, 17, 25 and 29); Worry (items 4, 7, 18, 22, 24 and 26); Punishment (items 2, 6, 11, 13, 15 and 28); and Re-appraisal (items 3, 10, 14, 20, 23 and 27).
Consistency of subscales: The Cronbach Alpha scores (n =
229) obtained for the subscales were as follows: Distraction = .72; Social
Control = .79; Worry = .71; Punishment = .64; Re-appraisal = .67. As a .8 alpha
score indicates high internal reliability, the scores obtained suggest fair to
good internal consistency. This means that individual items did relate to the
entire sub-scale The alpha for the total score was not reported.
Subscale inter-correlations: The correlations between individual subscales ranged from r = -0.02 to r = 0.27. With the highest correlation being between the punishment and worry sub-scales (r=0.27). However, as the co-efficients were generally low it suggests that each sub-scale is measuring a distinctly different dimension.
Reliability: At six-weeks apart the test-retest correlations
ranged from .67 to .83 for the subscales. With
the total score being .83, indicating that it is a stable measure.
Predictive Validity: The TCQ scores were correlated with scores on a variety of other measures. There were 50 subjects, 18 of whom were males. Their age range was 22-43 years. The measures selected were: Padua Inventory, The Anxious Thoughts Inventory Self-consciousness scale, Penn State Worry Questionnaire, The Eysenck Personality Inventory and the Spielberger Trait anxiety subscale. The results were consistent with the prediction that a relationship existed between dimensions of thought control and perceived impaired control of thought . Furthermore significant correlations were obtained with neuroticism, public self-consciousness and trait-anxiety. The total score specifically taps into control strategies associated with intrusive thoughts rather than urges and impulses (Wells & Davies, 1994).
Items on the Distraction, Punishment, Worry and
Re-appraisal sub-scales are scored simply by totalling the numbers endorsed by
respondents. The Social Control
sub-scale contains three reverse scored items (5, 8 and 12).
A total TCQ score can be obtained by summing the individual sub-scales.
The TCQ was developed in a series of studies
including administration to 229 undergraduate and postgraduate students between
18 and 47 years of age. Of the 229
students, 96 were male and 133 were female.
Scores were as follows:
Subscale M SD M SD
Corcoran & Fisher, J (2000) Measures for Clinical Practice: A Sourcebook (3rd
Ed.) New York: Free Press
Wells, A., & Davies, M.I (1994) The Thought
Control Questionnaire: A measure of individual differences in the control of
unwanted thoughts. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 32, 871-878.
Questionnaire available here (PDF).
Above written by: Ms. Denise Carl
Reviewed, edited and approved by: Dr. Grant J. Devilly