What Is Cognitive Rehabilitation Therapy?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 19 May 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
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Cognitive rehabilitation therapy helps brain injury patients recover and retain cognitive skills. Such therapy can help people retain independence after a brain injury in addition to increasing the level of cognitive functioning. Subjects covered in therapy can include attention, communication, and problem solving skills. The treatment is tailored to the needs of the patient after a thorough neurological evaluation to learn the extent of the brain injury and develop a plan for addressing it.

Patients recovering from strokes, traumatic brain injuries, and other events can experience a cognitive decline. They may have trouble processing and using information, which can create problems like forgetting to pick up groceries, not being able to communicate, or having difficulty with tasks that require focused attention. This can impede a patient’s level of independence, as an aide may be needed to help the patient complete tasks of daily living. In cognitive rehabilitation therapy, a practitioner identifies and addresses these deficits.

The first step is a comprehensive evaluation. This can be difficult and tiring for the patient, but may provide important information for care providers. In the evaluation, the patient may be asked a battery of questions and could need to complete some tasks, like drawing or working with props. A full report can detail the nature and extent of brain injuries, which is important for developing an effective cognitive rehabilitation therapy program that will specifically address the issues the patient experiences.


Some cognitive rehabilitation therapy tasks involve retraining, where the brain is taught how to perform tasks all over again. This can be a grueling process, as the brain is less elastic after injuries and people may need to repeat activities over and over to develop the needed skills. In cases where the patient cannot retrain, the therapist can work on compensatory skills that make up for the impairment. For example, if a patient has trouble with memory tasks, the care provider might recommend maintaining a diary to track events and activities.

Counseling is also part of cognitive rehabilitation therapy. Some patients experience frustration and depression in therapy and recovery from brain injury. Attentive mental health care can identify problems early and may help patients deal with behavioral issues and other psychological symptoms that may arise. Counselors can work with patients and families during the recovery process to ensure that people receive adequate support while family members have opportunities to rest with the assistance of respite care to take over when they are fatigued.



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