A systematic review and narrative synthesis of mental imagery tasks in people with an intellectual disability: Implications for psychological therapies

Olivia Mary Hewitt, Craig Steel, Susie A. Hales, Nikita Hayden, Hatice Gundeslioglu, Katherine Tapp, Peter Langdon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Mental imagery is recognised for its role in both psychological distress and wellbeing, with mental imagery techniques increasingly being incorporated into psychological interventions. In this systematic review and narrative synthesis (PROSPERO 2021: CRD42021240930), we identify and evaluate the evidence base for the phenomenon and phenomenology of mental imagery in people with intellectual disabilities, to ascertain the applicability of such interventions for this population. Electronic searches of nine databases and grey literature identified relevant publications. Two reviewers independently assessed titles and abstracts of retrieved records (n = 8609) and full-text articles (n = 101) against eligibility criteria. Data were extracted and quality appraised. Forty-onepapers met our eligibility criteria. The quality and designs were variable. Mental imagery was facilitated through ensuring participants understood tasks, providing opportunity to rehearse tasks (including using concrete prompts) and using scaffolding to help participants elaborate their responses. People with intellectual disabilities can engage with mental imagery, with appropriate adaptations, although the associated phenomenology has not been thoroughly investigated. Mental imagery interventions may be useful for people with intellectual disabilities with appropriate modifications.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102178
JournalClinical Psychology Review
Early online date11 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognitive behavioural therapy
  • Intellectual disability
  • Mental imagery
  • Narrative synthesis
  • Phenomenology
  • Psychotherapy

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