Therapeutic programs aimed at developing the theory of mind in patients with autism spectrum disorders - available methods and their effectiveness

Psychiatr Pol. 2020 Jun 30;54(3):591-602. doi: 10.12740/PP/108493. Epub 2020 Jun 30.
[Article in English, Polish]


Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by the presence of deficits in social skills and communication as well as repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. Among the theories explaining the mechanisms of the formation of the above cited symptoms, an important role is attributed to the theory of the mind, or the ability to draw conclusions about the state of mind of other people, assigning mental states to others and interpreting their behaviors. According to guidelines of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence on the therapeutic procedures in autism spectrum disorders, the proceedings include various methods, adjusted to the level of functioning and presented difficulties. In the most widely used behavioral social skills trainings, the goal is to practice behaviors using modelling and role-playing techniques. Less attention is devoted to the issue of social understanding, theory of mind or the cognitive aspects of therapeutic interventions. There are studies demonstrating the possibility of developing competence in the theory of mind in people with ASD, as well as generalizing the acquired skills. The article reviews the literature on the use of therapeutic programs aimed at developing the theory of mind in patients with ASD and their effectiveness. As it seems, these are promising interventions, although they require further assessment.

Keywords: autism spectrum disorder; social skills training; theory of mind.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / psychology
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / therapy*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Processes
  • Social Perception*
  • Theory of Mind*