Perspective-taking deficits are thought to perpetuate interpersonal dysfunction across different forms of mental illness. Although psychotherapeutic treatments are thought to target perspective-taking deficits, there is a dearth of research supporting this claim. In the current naturalistic study, we investigated whether perspective-taking frequency changed over the course of a two-week cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) partial hospital treatment program.
Participants were 421 adults with severe and complex mental illness that included mood, anxiety, and psychotic-spectrum disorders. Perspective-taking was assessed at admission and discharge using the 7-item Interpersonal Reactivity Index subscale.
Results indicated improvements in perspective-taking from admission to discharge that did not vary as a function of participants diagnostic status or symptom severity. More severe autism spectrum disorder and borderline personality disorder symptoms were associated with less frequent perspective-taking across both time points.
These findings provide preliminary evidence to suggest that CBT may promote perspective-taking. Future research is needed to determine whether changes in perspective-taking are causally related to CBT, and if so, whether perspective-taking is a mechanism of change in psychotherapy.