Psychotherapeutic Interventions for Dementia: a Systematic Review


  • Paweena Sukhawathanakul University of Manitoba
  • Alexander Crizzle University of Saskatchewan
  • Holly Tuokko University of Victoria, Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest Health Sciences
  • Gary Naglie Baycrest Health Sciences, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute-University Health Network, University of Toronto
  • Mark J. Rapoport Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre



dementia, psychotherapeutic interventions, acceptance, adjustment


Background and Objectives

While a range of psychotherapeutic interventions is available to support individuals with dementia, comprehensive reviews of interventions are limited, particularly with regard to outcomes related to adjustment and acceptance. The current review assesses studies that evaluated the impact of various forms of psychotherapeutic interventions on acceptance and adjustment to changing life circumstances for older adults with cognitive impairment.

Research Design and Methods

A systematic search of PubMed, PsycINFO, and CINAHL databases was conducted, restricted to articles published in English within the last 16 years (from 2003 to 2019). Twenty-four articles were identified that examined the effects of psychotherapeutic interventions on outcomes related to acceptance and adjustment which included internalizing symptoms, quality of life, self-esteem, and well-being. Fifteen studies examined interventions targeted towards individuals with cognitive impairment, while nine studies also targeted their caregivers.


Interventions that impacted outcomes related to acceptance and adjustment (e.g., adaptation, depressive symptoms, helplessness, self-esteem, and quality of life) varied in their theoretical approach, which incorporated elements of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), problem-solving therapy, psychotherapy, reminiscence therapy, interpersonal therapy, mindfulness-based therapy, and meaning-based, compassion-focused therapy. Among all interventions, reductions in depression were the most commonly reported treatment outcome particularly among interventions that

 incorporated problem-focused and meaning-based therapies. Mixed findings were reported with regard to outcomes related to helplessness, quality of life, self-esteem, and life satisfaction indices for individuals with cognitive impairment.

Discussion and Implications

There is some support for the effectiveness of psychotherapeutic interventions on improving acceptance and adjustment in older adults with cognitive impairment, particularly with regard to reducing depressive symptoms.


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How to Cite

Sukhawathanakul P, Crizzle A, Tuokko H, Naglie G, Rapoport MJ. Psychotherapeutic Interventions for Dementia: a Systematic Review. Can Geriatr J [Internet]. 2021 Sep. 2 [cited 2021 Dec. 1];24(3):222-36. Available from:



Systematic Reviews/Meta-analysis