Exploring Cognitive Processes in Treatment Seeking Veterans


Background: The prevalence of comorbid mental health problems is particularly high among veteran populations. While a variety of evidence-based treatment approaches exist, rates of treatment non-response and drop-out are substantial. Consequently, there is a need to better understand what factors undermine recovery from mental health difficulties in treatment seeking veterans. The current study is an exploratory observational study, aimed at exploring how cognitive processes may contribute to emotional distress and ill-health among this population. It is anticipated that by revealing associations between ‘cognitive profiles’ and mental health outcomes, future treatments may be tailored to better suit veterans’ needs.

Method: A sample of 100 veterans will be recruited from the Melbourne office of Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling service. Participants will be 18 years or older and have a current diagnosis of at least one mental health condition as determined by the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI). Participants will complete initial demographic and mental health surveys, followed by a series of computer-based cognitive tasks. These computer tasks will measure potentially maladaptive cognitive biases, such as attentional hypervigilance toward or avoidance of threat, hostile interpretation of information, and inflexible emotional regulation. Self-reported mental health status will be assessed approximately 2-4 weeks after participants complete counselling at Open Arms.

Results: Quantitative methods will be used to determine if certain cognitive profiles are associated with particular treatment outcomes following standard mental health treatment.