A new therapy for cognitive challenges

THE symptoms that come up early in the development of a disorder in nearly all patients are likely to worsen as the illness progresses and have a major impact on overall outcomes and quality of life. You would think these sound like excellent treatment targets.

But despite the fact that cognitive difficulties such as problems with concentration, attention, learning, planning and speed of processing are now considered a hallmark of severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and autism, they’re rarely addressed, says Sydney University’s Associate Professor Anthony Harris, who directs the Clinical Disorders Unit at Westmead Hospital’s Brain Dynamics Centre. 

But it’s not because nothing can be done. An international body of research shows that a psychological treatment called cognitive remediation therapy (CRT) works far better than standard treatments currently do for addressing these problems.