What Are the Different Types of Attention Training?

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  • Written By: Synthia L. Rose
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 14 September 2019
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Different types of attention training include mindfulness training, attention process training and phasic alertness training. These activities are designed to improve the quality of attention for those who suffer from emotional or behavioral disorders or both. Games, computers, special techniques and sensory focus exercises are the backbone of attention training, offering opportunities to address problems with either divided attention or sustained attention.

Attention training benefits people who have attention deficit disorders (ADD) as well as those who are anxious, pessimistic and depressed. Focus training can help those with ADD ignore distractions and manage stimuli. For people who have mood disorders, psychologists say attention training can help skew their focus to things that are constructive and positive; research shows that many melancholy people have an attentional bias toward negative feelings or events and thus find it difficult to dwell on positive occurrences.

During mindfulness attention training, patients are comfortably seated and instructed to be hyper-aware of the present moment, barring any allusions of the past or concerns for the future. Patients are discouraged from assigning judgment to what they observe or experience in the current moment. With this understanding, the patient then uses breathing as the central focus of attention; he or she breathes deeply and in deliberate rhythm, becoming aware of every exhalation and inhalation for roughly 10 to 20 minutes.


Patients handle errant thought by returning their attention to breathing. This attention training activity can be practiced daily or in the midst of conflict or emotional frustration. Mindfulness can be practiced individually or in organized groups. Psychologists consider this mindfulness technique a form of meditation. In addition to strengthening a person’s ability to focus and control attention, mindfulness also helps with relaxation.

Attention process training (APT) improves four kinds of attention: divided attention, sustained attention, alternating attention and selective attention. Using written exercises, audio and timers, APT primarily hones auditory attention skills and visual attention skills. Researchers believe such attention training, done regularly, causes the brain to create additional synapses in the cerebral regions linked to attention and awareness, enabling better focus.

Many computer-based attention training exercises use the dot probe task, which is a psychological test that replaces neutral words with dots to see if a person will substitute a negative or positive word for the dot. This test is for those using attention training to eliminate negative biases. Other, more formal and extensive computerized training options exist. One of them is the Tonic and Phasic Alertness Training (TAPAT) program, which requires patients to maintain a sustained sense of readiness and awareness so they can shift attention from one computerized stimulus to the next for varying periods of time.


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Post 3

We do a type of attention training at home for my daughter who has a mild case of ADD.

I have her do various activities for a certain period of time. If she can concentrate and complete the task, she can do something she wants for a while. And she also gets rewards for doing well. We are increasing activity time a little bit every week. It works.

Post 2

@donasmrs-- I think that mindfulness attention training will be beneficial for you. It sounds like you are bombarded with negative thoughts and feelings sometimes which basically makes you incapable of concentrating on one thing. That's actually normal because our brain can only handle so much stimuli at one time. Too much stimuli and the brain goes into overdive, much like our computer freezes when we try to do too much at once.

The good part about mindfulness attention training is that it helps one calm down, think more slowly and prioritize. It's good for anxiety too, which is the cause of poor attention in your case.

These trainings are usually done by doctors and therapists. So yes, you should speak to your doctor about it. Some wellness centers offer classes on them too. So you might want to ask around as well.

Post 1

I didn't know that there are so many different training tools for attention problems. Where can I sign up for these? Do psychologists offer them? Do I need to see a psychologist or therapist?

I have issues with pessimism and anxiety. On some days, I'm okay and can concentrate on my work. But on some days when my anxiety is particularly bad, I have trouble concentrating. I basically make myself sick with worry. I get a headache and I have to just rest and can't do anything. I lose productivity because of my mood changes. I want to overcome them. Will attention training help me?

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