Training has been shown to improve the ability of people with intellectual disabilities (IDs) to perform some cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) tasks. This study used a computerised training paradigm with the aim of improving the ability of people with IDs to: a) discriminate between behaviours, thoughts and feelings, and b) link situations, thoughts and feelings.
Fifty-five people with mild-to-moderate IDs were randomly assigned to a training or attention-control condition in a single-blind mixed experimental design. Computerised tasks assessed the participants’ skills in: (a) discriminating between behaviours, thoughts and feelings (separately and pooled together), and (b) cognitive mediation by selecting appropriate emotions as consequences to given thoughts, and appropriate thoughts as mediators of given emotions.
Training significantly improved ability to discriminate between behaviours, thoughts and feelings pooled together, compared to the attention-control condition, even when controlling for baseline scores and IQ. Large within-group improvements in the ability to identify behaviours and feelings were observed for the training condition, but not the attention-control group. There were no significant between-group differences in ability to identify thoughts, or on cognitive mediation skills.
A single session of computerised training can improve the ability of people with IDs to understand and practise CBT tasks relating to behaviours and feelings. There is potential for computerised training to be used as a “primer” for CBT with people with IDs to improve engagement and outcomes, but further development on a specific computerised cognitive mediation task is needed.