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Decades old therapy being used to treat mental illness

A therapy that is roughly two decades old is gaining wider acceptance in the medical field as a means to treat mental illness. Cognitive remediation is a therapy that trains the brain to work through steps that are needed to achieve goals. In several cases, mental health patients say they have turned their lives around because of the therapy.

Essentially, cognitive remediation is based on the theory that routines are incredibly helpful for people with a mental impairment. The routines help these individuals to put order into their day-to-day lives and achieve goals that would otherwise be out of reach.

An example of cognitive remediation treatment in a severely mentally ill person consists of three to four months of sessions using special software with repetitive exercises three times per week, according to a Boston University neuropsychologist. The exercises help the person gain skills such as organization, focus and problem solving, she said.

The treatment was first introduced to help patients with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. Today, it's being tested as a potential treatment for many other mental conditions, including depression, autism, anorexia nervosa and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, said the director of psychiatric rehabilitation at Columbia University Medical Center.

A 52-year-old woman who was once diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder is now traveling the world giving talks on mental illness recovery, and she attributes her success over the past several years to cognitive remediation.

Even so, while this woman and many other consider themselves "recovered" many mental health experts say that recovery is a not a permanent state. Additionally, they caution that cognitive remediation is not the right treatment for everyone suffering from mental illness.

Many individuals, even with the help of medications and therapy, find that their mental illnesses are still severe enough to interfere with their ability to work. Luckily for these individuals, Social Secuirty Disability benefits are often available to help supplement their income.

Source: CNN, "A new (old) way to treat mental illness," Katti Gray, June 14, 2013

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