Talking Therapies- a hidden treatment of Dementia

Learn what talking therapies are and how they are useful to those who suffer from dementia.

Note: words formatted in bold can be found in the glossary

As it currently stands, there is no cure for dementia. In fact, as there’s various causes of dementia, it’s likely that there won’t be a definitive cure. Regardless, there’s still many therapies and treatment plans for those diagnosed. Talking therapies is one of those therapy options. 

Talking therapies give people with dementia the opportunity to openly speak about their feelings and can therefore help them to adjust to and also live with their condition more successfully. As a consequence, there may be less reliance on carers or other social support networks thereby the individual living with dementia can live more independently.

Caption: Talking therapies help dementia patients to openly talk about their feelings. 

Psychological therapies or ‘talking therapies’ are sessions which are delivered usually by a professional such as a counsellor or psychologist. They’re all based on a certain understanding of how the mind works. The approach to these sessions will be adapted for each individual. Typically, a person will be supported to talk about how their thoughts and feelings affect their mood and behaviour.  The aim simply is for the patient and the therapist to find out what might be causing the patient’s problems, as well as ways to manage these problems accordingly. In the scenario where a person has just been diagnosed with dementia, talking therapies (specifically counselling) give the person with dementia support and gives them an opportunity to make sense of their condition and the implications it has on their lives. Successful therapies usually rely on the patient and the therapist building a good rapport and a trusting relationship. 

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It is essential the professional maintains a trustworthy relationship with the patient. This allows the patient to open up, hence the theory will be more effective.

Some types of talking therapies can be via a telephone call or online, such as counselling and cognitive behaviour therapy. The approach to therapy will be chosen differently for each patient’s case: it is based on a relationship where the patient and therapist work together to find out what might be causing problems, as well as ways to manage these problems. Trust is a vital factor in the talking therapy – it helps the therapist to diagnose the problems of the patient and find an effective solution. It is also important to keep confidentiality, where the patient’s information is not shared with anyone else (except for exceptional circumstances). 

Studies have found that psychological therapies such as counselling, psychotherapy, and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) are effective in reducing depression and anxiety in people with early-stage dementia

Talking therapies tend to be useful in the early-mid stages of dementia: it is unlikely to help if patients are in their later stages of dementia. This is because the ‘attention, communication, understanding and memory’ are all affected at later stages of dementia, and are a vital part of the treatment. Talking therapies allow a dementia patient to openly talk about their feelings, allowing them to adjust and live with their condition more successfully. A therapist could be able to provide a safe space for a patient to talk about the reason why they feel the way they do; this is very comforting for the patient, and allows them to build healthy relationships with their family members.

These factors are all important in having an effective talking therapy session.

Furthermore, the reduction of depressive symptoms through these talking therapies over several weeks is highly beneficial. This is because depression is a comorbidity of dementia. Depression in itself is difficult to treat and generally antidepressants are used. However, antidepressants have numerous side effects and since dementia more commonly affects older people, the use of antidepressants is made even more difficult. This is because they take multiple medications for their various health conditions and these drugs may negatively interact with one another. By using talking therapies to reduce depressive symptoms, individuals living with dementia avoid having to take another medication for their depression.

There are a variety of side effects of antidepressants, such as sickness, indigestion, tiredness, dizziness.

Moreover, talking therapies have been found to be highly instrumental in reducing distress in carers of people with dementia. This is something that is often overlooked but in fact the health of carers is also negatively affected. Studies such as Janice Kiecolt-Glaser’s has shown that a chronic stressor, such as caring for an ill relative, increases the likelihood of illness. Using talking therapies for these individuals allow them to improve their well-being and mental health, hence being happy when doing their job but also improving the surrounding environment of those suffering from dementia. 

Chronic stressors affect the ability of a person to do day to day activities.

In conclusion, talking therapies can be used to support both people living with dementia and their carers. Through greater use of talking therapies more people directly and indirectly affected by dementia can be helped. However, it should be noted, increased use of talking therapies is only possible when further research is conducted with better methodology to identify the best type of talking therapy in relation to dementia, the duration of the therapy etc.



Degenerative (of a disease) characterized by progressive deterioration and loss of function in the organs or tissues. Of or tending to decline and deterioration.
Counselling the provision of professional assistance and guidance in resolving personal or psychological problems.
Psychotherapy the treatment of mental disorder by psychological rather than medical means.
Cognitive Behavioural therapy is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave.
Chronic stressor a distinct subgroup of stressors (environmental events) that are ongoing and everyday issues affecting or having the potential to influence a person’s body, mind, family, or community.
Comorbidity more than one illness or disease occurring in one person at the same time.
Methodology a system of methods use in a particular area of study or activity.


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