Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Effective in Reducing Depression Among Persons with Mild ID

Jane McGillivray, PhD
Deakin University, Australia

Many people with intellectual disability (ID) experience symptoms of depression. Cognitive Behavioral therapy has been shown to be a helpful approach for treating depression, including in people with mild ID. Although there have been questions asked about the relative merit of the cognitive versus the behavioral components, there has been little research comparing the different strategies in this population.

What did you do in your research?
We looked at the effects of three different group interventions on symptoms of depression in people with mild ID: (i) cognitive strategies only, (ii) behavioral strategies only, and (iii) combined cognitive-behavioral (CB) strategies, at the end of the program and 6-months later in 70 adults with mild ID and symptoms of depression. We measured depression symptoms and negative thoughts before and then again after the program.

What did you find out?
All three interventions appeared to be effective in reducing depression scores among persons with mild ID. However, the combined CB approach showed a trend for a better outcome in terms of depression symptoms and negative thoughts both at the end of the program and at follow-up, 6 months later. There was also an indication that helping people change the way they think about things may be helpful in the longer term.

What are the take-home messages?
Cognitive and behavioral intervention programs appear helpful to many people with mild ID and symptoms of depression. A program that includes both cognitive and behavioral strategies may be the most successful in reducing both symptoms of depression and negative thinking patterns over time. Further research is necessary before firm recommendations can be made about the best practice.

To learn more about these findings contact Jane McGillivray.

Full Journal Article
McGillivray, J. A., & Kershaw, M. (2015). Do we need both cognitive and behavioural components in interventions for depressed mood in people with mild intellectual disability?. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 59(2), 105–115.