3 Reasons Why You Should Treat Cognition As Part of Depression Therapy

When people are depressed, many seek psychotherapy to work on the emotional symptoms and ailments from their depression. However, people with depression also experience cognitive problems. Common cognitive problems resulting from depression include difficulty paying attention, poor memory, and becoming easily distracted. These cognitive problems may interfere with activities of daily life, such as performing at work, which can cause a person to enter a negative cycle as a result of the impact of the cognitive problems on their daily life. People working with clients battling depression may want to treat cognition as part of their client’s depression therapy. In this blog post, we discuss why you should treat cognition as part of depression therapy for your clients.

1. Remediating cognitive deficits may help your client show up and be effective in the workplace.

Difficulty performing at work is a common result of experiencing depression. Namely, many people with depression report not being able to focus and being easily distracted. Attention deficits can also cause a person to run late to work and forget important information needed for their job. With already feeling down about their current circumstances, the constant feeling of failure and unable to achieve at work will only increase the feelings of unworthiness. Working on attention skills using good cognitive worksheets, digital cognitive therapy tools, and bridging activities for attention may help clients with depression improve their attention to allow them to get back to work and function effectively. Learning how to achieve and win little victories with small and manageable tasks could help improve someone’s overall attitude towards life and their feelings of depression. 

2. Addressing working memory problems may help your client avoid hospitalization.

Working memory is involved in storing information briefly to be used during a task. Executive functioning is involved in impulse control and task shifting. Studies have shown that having cognitive impairment, namely in working memory and executive function, is correlated with the number of hospitalizations a person may have and the duration of their depression. People with cognitive dysfunction in these areas are more susceptible to relapsing into depression, which may cause them to need hospitalization or more intensive psychological help. Working on working memory and executive functioning with your client may help them remember information shared during a therapy session, such as cognitive strategies to avoid ruminating on negative thoughts.

3. Cognitive remediation therapy may be a more favorable option for your client to relieve depressive symptoms.

Many people prefer to avoid taking medications, particularly antidepressants as many antidepressants have many undesirable side-effects. For some people who may want to try an alternative therapeutic approach, cognitive remediation therapy may be a more favorable option. Cognitive remediation therapy (CRT) addresses cognitive difficulties experienced by the client by using a combination of print and digital cognitive therapy tools. The goal of CRT is to practice and build the foundations of key cognitive skills along with hands-on bridging activities to help the client generalize the cognitive strategies they have practiced into their everyday lives. While working with your client on cognitive skills during cognitive remediation therapy, you may help them reduce their depressive symptoms as well. 

Extra bonus: Cognitive remediation therapy is adaptable to being done remote. Your client could continue their cognitive training from anywhere, which may help ease extra stress. 


Traditionally therapists have been more inclined to focus on the emotional complaints a client has regarding their experience of depression; however, therapists may want to inquire about a client’s cognitive functioning. Remediating impaired cognitive functioning may help a client battling depression be more effective in the workplace, avoid hospitalization, and alleviate some depressive symptoms. Cognitive skills can be worked on using a combination of good cognitive therapy worksheets and digital cognitive therapy tools. In addition, therapists can help their clients transfer practiced cognitive skills to their everyday lives using bridging activities that simulate real-world experiences.

Gotlib, I. H., & Joormann, J. (2010). Cognition and depression: current status and future directions. Annual review of clinical psychology, 6, 285-312.
Harvey PO, Le Bastard G, Pochon JB, Levy R, Allilaire JF, et al. Executive functions and updating of the contents of working memory in unipolar depressions. J Psychiatr Res. 2004;38:567–76.
Kaser, M., Zaman, R., & Sahakian, B. J. (2017). Cognition as a treatment target in depression. Psychological Medicine, 47(6), 987-989.
Majer M, Ising M, Kunzel H, Binder EB, Holsboer F, Modell S, & Zihl J. (2004) Impaired divided attention predicts delayed response and risk to relapse in subjects with depressive disorders. Psychological Medicine, 34(08), 1453-1463. 
Dustin Luchmee

Dustin was HappyNeuron's Product Specialist. With research experience in stroke, Dustin learned how a stroke can change someone's life. He also learned how different kinds of therapists can work together to help a person get better. He is passionate about neuro-rehabilitation and finding the active ingredients for effective therapy.

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