CRT can help fix underlying issues with thoughts and behaviors, making addiction treatments more effective.

Thoughts, experiences and perceptions help determine what you know. The process of gaining this knowledge and understanding is called cognition. Cognitive deficits can worsen mental health conditions and contribute to addiction. Over time, inadequately treated mental health conditions can also lead to cognitive impairments.

In the last decade, psychologists and researchers have agreed upon a commonly accepted cognitive behavioral therapy definition. They have also developed principles of cognitive remediation therapy to help address how cognitive deficits impact addiction and mental health conditions.

What Is Cognitive Remediation Therapy?

Cognitive remediation therapy (CRT), sometimes referred to as cognitive enhancement therapy, is a type of restorative therapy for those who experience problems with cognitive functions like attention, memory and planning. These types of cognitive skills can both affect and be affected by mental health conditions, including:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Eating disorders
  • Depression
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Cognitive impairments or decline

Cognitive deficits in these conditions have widespread consequences. In particular, cognitive impairment can significantly limit the positive impact that standard treatments like medication and psychotherapy can provide.

CRT utilizes a series of computer-based exercises to gradually shift the brain from a cognitive pattern to a more adaptive one. By engaging in cognitive remediation therapy exercises on a regular basis, patients can improve the following skills:

  • Memory
  • Attention
  • Organizational skills
  • Social cognition (skill at managing social situations)
  • Executive function

How Does CRT Work?

During CRT, the patient takes part in a series of exercises and activities, often designed as games. These tasks make the brain process information and look for differences, patterns and logic. Cognitive remediation therapy can be performed one-on-one with a therapist or alone with a smartphone app or computer program. These activities train certain brain regions in a way that’s similar to how weightlifting strengthens muscle groups.

When applied to the symptoms of mental health conditions, CRT has been shown to help treat and protect against cognitive deficits.

Who Can Benefit from CRT?

You are more likely to experience the benefits of cognitive remediation if you:

  • Are able to actively participate in your own treatment
  • Can sustain your attention for long periods of time
  • Have a condition that CRT has been shown to help, such as schizophrenia or depression
  • Are in the early development of a mental health condition

When patients are early in the course of their condition, CRT is especially helpful in slowing down or sometimes reversing cognitive decline.

At The Recovery Village, your psychiatrist may recommend CRT as part of your treatment plan if you have a condition that puts you at risk for cognitive impairment or decline. Your treatment team will ensure that the CRT modules are appropriate for your level and type of need. As you acquire new skills, cognitive remediation therapy software will adapt to your level and present you with new challenges. In addition, you may be asked to complete modules as “homework” as well.

CRT Outcomes

The primary goal of cognitive remediation therapy is to alter how the brain has learned to process information. Because the brain already has a large store of learned behaviors, it must practice a different behavior repeatedly before it becomes its default. Therefore, CRT can take several weeks or even months to demonstrate an effect. However, research shows that the benefits of CRT last long after the treatment exercises have been completed.

Cognitive Remediation Therapy in Addiction and Mental Health Treatment

Many researchers believe that addiction develops, at least partially, from alterations in the brain’s decision-making machinery. According to more modern theories, addiction can occur when the brain loses a degree of cognitive control and begins processing attention and reward differently. Those who suffer from addiction and a loss of cognitive control can be excellent candidates for CRT.

Whether you are considering cognitive remediation therapy for schizophrenia treatment or utilizing cognitive remediation therapy for anorexia and other eating disorders, CRT is only one potential aspect of a multifaceted approach to treating mental health disorders that can also include medication, individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy and other interventions.

CRT takes diligent and consistent effort, but few other therapies create such sustainable and positive changes for mental health.

If you have been seeking a way to more effectively manage a mental health condition and addiction, The Recovery Village can help. Our team of professionals can offer you a thorough assessment, evaluation and high-quality care from knowledgeable and caring staff. Our experienced clinicians are well versed in many types of therapies and interventions, including cognitive remediation therapy. Contact us today so that we can help you find the treatment that works best for your situation.

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Editor – Jonathan Strum
Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor's in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Kevin Wandler, MD
Kevin Wandler holds multiple positions at Advanced Recovery Systems. In addition to being the founding and chief medical director at Advanced Recovery Systems, he is also the medical director at The Recovery Village Ridgefield and at The Recovery Village Palmer Lake. Read more

Hogarty, Gerard and Flesher, Samuel.“Practice principles of cognitive enhancement therapy for schizophrenia.” February 1999. Accessed May 8, 2019.

Koffarnus, Mikhail and Kaplan, Brent. “Clinical models of decision making in addiction.” Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior. January 2018. Accessed May 8, 2019.

Pedrero, EJ et al. Cognitive remediation in addictions treatment. Revista de Neurologia (Review of Neurology). 2011. Accessed May 8, 2019.

Stoops, William W. “Decision-making in addiction: Current knowledge, clinical implications and future directions.” Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, January 2018. Accessed May 8, 2019.



Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.