Timata Hou, a secure residential forensic service in the Wellington region, has implemented a six month programme aimed at teaching emotion regulation to intellectually disabled adults in the community.

Timata Hou is a non-government organisation and the community arm of the Central Region Foresnic Mental Health, Rehabilitation and Intellectual Disability Service (Te Korowai Whariki).

The programme, known as Transformers, has been developed out of a similar emotion regulation programme successfully implemented at Haumietiketike, the regional intellectual disability secure service in Wellington.

Transformers focuses on intellectually disabled adults who have reacted aggressively to situations in the past. The programme is informed by an evidence-based anger management programme, designed for use with offenders with an intellectual disability, developed by Murphy, Lindsay and Cox (2007).

Transformers focuses on recognising emotions and learning skills to deal with them constructively. “We have to simplify,” says clinical psychologist Jared Watson, who developed the Transformers manual after two years with Stepping Stones. Transformers graduates move to a maintenance group to consolidate skills.

“Probably the most commonly used skill is walking away, but they’re all used.”

Jared Watson, psychologist and Transformers facilitator, Capital Coast DHB

Programme format and content

Transformers runs for 21 to 22 weeks as its clients usually spend less time with the service. The weekly format and programme content is similar to Stepping Stones. Transformers group members are also encouraged to bring support staff members from the community service to the group sessions.

Does Transformers work?

The change in Transformers clients was evaluated by clinical psychologists Jared Watson and Sandra Malcolm during 2010, 2011 and 2012. The average number of violent incidents dropped slightly each year, although not significantly, possibly due to small numbers.

At least half of the group attendees each year showed a decrease in violent incidents, sometimes dramatic, although a small number also showed an increase.

Clearly Transformers worked particularly well with some people, for reasons that are not currently known. Other positive impacts were also noted, such as greater engagement with therapy, better relationships with staff and increased ability to talk about emotions.

A clinical psychology student from Massey University is currently working on further evaluation of Transformers with larger numbers.

More information

For more information on Capital and Coast District Health Board visit their website.

Documents and links

  • Murphy, L., Lindsay, W., & Cox, L. (2007). Managing anger programme – treatment protocol. Paper presented at the ASCO Forensic Disabilities Conference, Melbourne, Australia. View abstract online.