Why You Should Provide Cognitive Remediation for Your Client with Major Depressive Disorder

Cognitive remediation therapy is a form of therapy that combines the practice of cognitive skills using digital cognitive therapy tools with hands-on practice that helps the client transfer practiced cognitive skills to the real world. Cognitive remediation therapy has become popular for the intervention of psychological disorders, particularly for major depressive disorder (MDD), as they can cause a person to experience cognitive impairment. In MDD patients, research has shown a decline in verbal fluency, visual-spatial skills, verbal learning, and executive functioning. During an episode of MDD, executive functioning, processing speed, and memory are most affected. All of these areas of cognitive stimulation are key to maintaining cognitive health.

How does Providing Cognitive Remediation Therapy for MDD Work?

Many people with MDD have difficulty concentrating. Especially during times where a higher level of concentration is needed such as during work or school, participating in social activities, and maintaining relationships with others. Oftentimes, treatment plans for MDD neglect addressing the cognitive deficits a client may have. They focus more on treating the symptoms instead of the problem, like working memory deficiencies. When cognitive deficits resulting from depression are worked on with a clinical provider, it may help clients struggling with depression improve their psychosocial functioning in addition to their cognitive functioning. 

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Researchers took MRIs of MDD patients before using cognitive remediation and after. The fMRI studies have shown that patients with MDD had increased brain activity in the lateral and medial prefrontal cortex, cingulate, and right hippocampus after completing a course of cognitive remediation therapy. With researchers finding improved performance on cognitive assessments and increased brain activation in areas responsible for key cognitive functions, completion of a cognitive remediation therapy program may lead to neuroplastic changes that result in improved cognitive abilities in clients with MDD. While research is promising, more research is needed to learn more about the mechanisms at play in the bridging of practiced cognitive skills to everyday life. 

Does Cognitive Remediation Therapy Work in other Patient Groups?

Cognitive remediation therapy has been successful in remediating cognitive deficits that are key elements in other psychological disorders such as schizophrenia. The NEAR treatment is one type of cognitive remediation therapy for psychosis that heavily uses cognitive remediation in their treatment plans.

What are the benefits for MDD patients?

Addressing the cognitive deficits that cause your client to not function effectively in these areas may help them build the skills needed to feel more confident in themselves. If you are new to providing cognitive remediation therapy, you may want to try a digital cognitive therapy tool with your clients and learn more about cognitive remediation therapy from experts. 


Major depressive disorder is a debilitating psychological condition that causes a person to suffer not only from severe depression, but also cognitive complications. Cognitive remediation therapy is an effective treatment option that doesn’t involve medication. It is a form of therapy that addresses cognitive deficits by having the client perform computerized cognitive training, in addition to hands-on activities, that help the client generalize their practice of cognitive skills to their daily lives. With growing research, cognitive remediation therapy is demonstrating its efficacy in addressing cognitive deficits in clients with psychological disorders. By addressing cognitive deficits, psychologists working with clients that have MDD, can help their clients achieve greater quality of life by building essential cognitive skills. This not only will help improve their mood, but can help their client function more effectively in their daily lives.

Bowie, C. R., Gupta, M., & Holshausen, K. (2013). Cognitive remediation therapy for mood disorders: rationale, early evidence, and future directions. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 58(6), 319-325.


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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