Columbia University Medical Center
NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital The University Hospital of Columbia and Cornell

Ask the Experts


What is cognitive remediation and for whom is it helpful?

Answered by: Alice Medalia

Cognitive remediation is a behavioral treatment that uses drill and practice, compensatory and adaptive strategies to facilitate improvement in targeted cognitive areas like memory, attention and problem solving.

Cognitive remediation aims to improve cognitive impairments that are making it difficult for a person to achieve their functional goals. For example, someone with attention and memory problems may have difficulty following directions from their boss, or may lose track of important information their friends and family tell them. People who have difficulty being organized and prioritizing information may find it hard to manage independent living, or going to school.

Cognitive remediation is intended to help people who have experienced a decline in their cognitive skills, or who were not able to fully develop their skills because of illness. Many psychiatric illnesses cause cognitive problems. For example, schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders cause a decline in attention, memory and problem solving skills.

Some people get confused between the similar sounding Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Cognitive Remediation. Cognitive Behavior Therapy teaches you to think your way through emotionally challenging problems. Cognitive Remediation helps improve the underlying neuropsychological functions that help you think: attention, memory, planning, organization, abstract thinking. Cognitive remediation often uses the computer to provide exercises to improve neuropsychological skills.

For more information about Cognitive Remediation, consult

Alice Medalia, Ph.D.

Director of Psychiatric Rehabilitation

Alice Medalia, Ph.D. is an international leader in the field of psychiatric rehabilitation, who focuses on the treatment of neuropsychological disorders in psychiatric illness. She developed the widely used NEAR (Neuropsychological & Educational Approach to Remediation) model to help people with mental illness improve their thinking skills in such areas as attention, memory, processing speed and problem solving. She lectures and consults to agencies worldwide and conducts training workshops for clinicians who want to learn how to provide cognitive remediation to psychiatric patients. Dr Medali...
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