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Reminiscence therapy

BMJ Group Medical Reference


This information is for people with dementia and their carers. It tells you about reminiscence therapy, a treatment that is sometimes used for dementia. It's based on the best and most up-to-date research.

Does it help?

We don't know. There is some evidence to show that reminiscence therapy helps people with dementia. But we need to see a lot more before we can know for certain that it helps.

What is it?

In reminiscence therapy, people are encouraged to remember things that happened in their life. Some people do this silently and alone. But usually they talk to someone or join special groups that meet regularly.

Reminiscence workers may use music, photographs, or other items to remind people about earlier days. For example, they might play music from the 1930s and show photographs of famous singers of the time, to start the memories flowing.

How can it help?

Some small studies show that reminiscence therapy can help people with their memory and thinking. But it doesn't seem to help people who get upset easily feel less agitated. [146]

How does it work?

The effort of remembering past events may help people's memory. And reminiscence therapy may also help people who have symptoms like being restless, easily upset, or aggressive by giving them something else to think about.

Can it be harmful?

There's no evidence that reminiscence therapy can be harmful. [146]

How good is the research on reminiscence therapy?

There's not much research to show that reminiscence therapy works. We found one summary of research (called a systematic review) that looked at the results from four small studies involving more than 100 people with dementia. It found that those people given reminiscence therapy were more likely to do better in tests on memory and thinking. But the therapy didn't help people who get upset easily or agitated. [147]

More good-quality research is needed before we can say for certain whether it works.


systematic reviews

A systematic review is a thorough look through published research on a particular topic. Only studies that have been carried out to a high standard are included. A systematic review may or may not include a meta-analysis, which is when the results from individual studies are put together.

For more terms related to Dementia


For references related to Dementia click here.
Last Updated: August 15, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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