Executive function impairments are common after spina bifida (SB) and potentially have a detrimental effect on the individual's emotional health and coping. Goal management training (GMT) is a cognitive rehabilitation method for improving executive function. The purpose of this study was to determine the efficacy of GMT on aspects of perceived emotional health and coping in individuals with SB.
Thirty-eight adult subjects with SB were included in this randomized controlled trial. Inclusion was based upon the presence of executive functioning complaints. Experimental subjects (n = 24) received 21 hr of GMT, with efficacy of GMT being compared with results of subjects in a wait-list condition (n = 14). Four self-report questionnaires assessing emotional health and coping were utilized as outcome measures. All subjects were assessed at baseline, postintervention, and at 6-month follow-up.
Findings indicated positive effects of GMT relative to the control group on measures of emotional health. Of note, the GMT group showed significant improvement, compared with control subjects, on a self-report inventory of depressive and anxiety symptoms after training, lasting at least 6 months posttreatment. Furthermore, both groups showed improvements after training on mental health components of health-related quality of life. Finally, the GMT group showed a significant increase in task-focused coping and a decrease in avoidant coping after training compared with pretreatment baseline assessment scores.
Overall, findings indicate that by us a compensatory intervention to manage executive dysfunction, effective and lasting benefits can be achieved with regard to aspects of perceived emotional health and coping.