Improving Outcome of Psychosocial Treatments by Enhancing Memory and Learning

Perspect Psychol Sci. 2014 Mar;9(2):161-79. doi: 10.1177/1745691614521781.


Mental disorders are prevalent and can lead to significant impairment. Some progress has been made toward establishing treatments; however, effect sizes are small to moderate, gains may not persist, and many patients derive no benefit. Our goal is to highlight the potential for empirically supported psychosocial treatments to be improved by incorporating insights from cognitive psychology and research on education. Our central question is: If it were possible to improve memory for the content of sessions of psychosocial treatments, would outcome substantially improve? We leverage insights from scientific knowledge on learning and memory to derive strategies for transdiagnostic and transtreatment cognitive support interventions. These strategies can be applied within and between sessions and to interventions delivered via computer, the Internet, and text message. Additional novel pathways to improving memory include improving sleep, engaging in exercise, and using imagery. Given that memory processes change across the lifespan, services to children and older adults may benefit from different types and amounts of cognitive support.

Keywords: cognitive behavior therapy; learning; memory; psychosocial treatments; sleep.