Reminiscence therapy for dementia

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2000;(4):CD001120. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD001120.


Background: Reminiscence Therapy (RT) has been defined as vocal or silent recall of events in a person's life, either alone, or with another person or group of people. It typically involves group meetings, at least once a week, in which participants are encouraged to talk about past events, often assisted by aids such as photos, music, objects and videos of the past. There is, often, little consistent application of psychological therapies in dementia services. A number of these 'therapies' were greeted with enthusiasm by health care practitioners in under stimulating care environments. They were expected to work miracles and their 'failure' to do this has led to their widespread disuse. A systematic review of the available evidence is important in order to identify the effectiveness of the different therapies. Subsequently, guidelines for their use can be made on a sound evidence base.

Objectives: RT involves groups of elderly people talking of past events, assisted by aids such as videos, pictures and archives, as a means of communicating and reflecting upon their life experiences. The objective of the review is to assess the effects of RT for dementia.

Search strategy: We searched the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register, MEDLINE, PSYCHLIT, EMBASE, OMNI, BIDS, Dissertation Abstracts International, SIGLE and reference lists of relevant articles up to 1998, and we contacted specialists in the field. We also searched relevant Internet sites and we hand searched Aging and Mental Health, the Gerontologist, Journal of Gerontology, Current Opinion in Psychiatry, Current Research in Britain: Social Sciences, British Psychological Society conference proceedings and Reminiscence database.

Selection criteria: Randomised controlled trials and quasi-randomised trials of RT for dementia in elderly people.

Data collection and analysis: Two reviewers independently extracted data and assessed trial quality.

Main results: Two trials are included in the review, but only one trial with 15 participants had extractable data. The results were statistically non-significant for both cognition and behaviour.

Reviewer's conclusions: No firm conclusions could be reached regarding the effectiveness of RT for dementia. The review highlighted the urgent need for more systematic research in the area.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Dementia / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Mental Recall*
  • Orientation
  • Psychotherapy, Group / methods*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Reality Therapy