And it was this ‘problem solving’ attitude, along with a chance encounter with a clinical psychologist, that led to arguably her highest profile work to date.
“I met two lovely and important people in Cambridge: my now husband and collaborator, Jon May, and a visiting clinical psychologist from Australia called David Kavanagh. David told me about a new psychological treatment called EMDR, and we devised some experiments to find out how it might help people recover from traumatic experiences. Meanwhile, Jon and I made a short-lived pact not to work directly with each other.”
The study was published and, even though David returned to Australia and Jackie and Jon went to Sheffield, they carried on collaborating. On one visit to the UK, David suggested a change in direction for our research.
“He mentioned that many people he treated for depression were self-medicating with alcohol. Often when they tried to stop drinking, cravings for alcohol made their mood worse and led them to start drinking again.”
The team wondered why these cravings were so powerful.
“We had some fun trying to answer this question by tempting each other with the promise of a coffee or a trip to the pub and interrogating the experience of wanting the drink but not having it yet. Our conclusion was that the power of cravings came from imagining the appearance, smell, taste and feel of the coffee or beer. To our surprise, no-one else had suggested this idea so we developed a theory of craving with mental imagery as a key part of the process.”