Reminiscence Therapy

reminiscence therapy

Verified by World Mental Healthcare Association

Reminiscence therapy is a treatment that aims to help people with severe memory disorders recall memories through various techniques.

What Is Reminiscence Therapy?

Reminiscence therapy (RT) is a non-pharmacological intervention 1 that involves discussing and finding meaning in memories, events, and experiences from the past.

It aims to evoke the positive emotions associated with fond memories, stimulate mental activity, as well as improve self-esteem, well‐being, and fulfillment in people with dementia and other memory disorders.

This form of therapy goes beyond the mere recalling of nostalgic events 2, encouraging patients to communicate and interact with a listener in the present. It often complements techniques that have been developed in other therapeutic frameworks, such as:

  • Cognitive therapy
  • Problem-solving therapy
  • Narrative therapy
  • Art therapy

Read More About Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Here

How Does Reminiscence Therapy Work?

For people with dementia, a typical reminiscence therapy session involves discussions of memories from the past with a licensed therapist using tangible prompts/objects to evoke memories and stimulate conversation. Such sessions may be formal, informal, one-on-one, or in a group setting.

Reminiscence therapy activities use sensory stimulation through sound, movement, dance, smell, vibration, and food to trigger strong memories. For instance, vocal reminiscing is often supported by props that have special meaning for an individual, such as:

  • Books
  • Videos
  • Photographs
  • Music
  • Personal recordings
  • Household items
  • Other objects like magazines, letters, food, ticket stubs, etc.

Recently, reminiscence therapy has come to be administered in innovative in-patient treatment facilities designed exclusively for people with dementia. One of the foremost reminiscence therapy examples includes “dementia villages 3” or medical residential townships in which dementia patients reside alongside medical professionals like doctors and caregivers.

The Hogeweyk in the Netherlands, Germany’s Tönebön am See, and “The Village” in Canada have gained recognition in the last decade for their unconventional administration of reminiscence therapy to people with severe dementia.

Dementia Villages Around The World

Read More About Dementia Here

How Effective Is Reminiscence Therapy?

Reminiscence therapy has a positive effect on not only cognitive function but also emotional functions for the elderly 4 with different types of dementia, namely, Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, and Frontotemporal dementia. It was particularly found that this form of therapy significantly increased older adults’ remission from depression and quality of life 5 immediately after the intervention.

Digital Reminiscence Therapy: A Step Ahead

To improve the accessibility and usability of RT, researchers have implemented therapy with advanced information and communication technologies (ICTs). These include digital reminiscence therapy, digital life stories, and networked RT.

Digital reminiscence therapy 6 involves a practical method to support RT delivery using multiple engaging media and allowing for multiple users.

With the help of webcams, photos, interactions with computer graphics, and personalized videos, it allows for technological conveniences that enable uploading personal materials (like favorite music, pictures, and videos) and presenting individual triggers of personal memories in what appears to be personalized “digital storybooks 7”.

Technology-based reminiscence therapy is associated with greater accessibility and cost-effectiveness, unlike conventional reminiscence therapy which exhaustively requires collecting items and training staff.

Digital RT does not require real objects as cues for recalling past events. It also offers numerous opportunities for engaging multimedia materials and storytelling as well as social interactions. As such, it is also associated with greater cognitive improvement, social engagement, and behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia.

Methods Of Reminiscence Therapy

As per research 8, there are two primary methods of reminiscing in reminiscence therapy:

1. Integrative Reminiscence Therapy

In integrative reminiscence therapy, people attempt to accept negative events in the past and resolve past conflicts. They attempt to reconcile the discrepancies between reality and ideals, identify continuities between past and present, and find meaning and worth in life.

2. Instrumental Reminiscence Therapy

In instrumental reminiscence therapy, patients are asked to recall successful experiences in which they acted effectively and took control of a difficult environment. In such cases, the individuals recollect goal-directed coping plans, activities, and strategies that they previously used to resolve crises in the past.

Types Of Reminiscence Therapy

The different types of reminiscent therapy include:

1. Simple Reminiscence

Simple reminiscence therapy involves recalling past experiences 9. The process consists of four elements: selection, immersion, withdrawal, and closure. In most cases, the patient chooses to recall a certain memory and self-evaluates the private thoughts and feelings linked to the memory. After careful consideration, he/she withdraws from the memory and comes to an acceptance of the events in the memory.

2. Life Review

Life review 10 reminiscence therapy involves recollecting memories covering an entire lifespan, for the pleasure of reliving and retelling them. This includes the evaluation of life events and the integration of positive and negative life events in a coherent life story.

3. Life Story

Life story reminiscence therapy for dementia uses life story books 11 to help people retrieve autobiographical memories easily. The life storybook usually depicts the history of an individual, in chronological order, with pictures, captions, and personal memorabilia.

Benefits Of Reminiscence Therapy

Psychosocial interventions like reminiscence therapy use physical, emotional, and social activities to improve the quality of life of people with dementia and optimize their existing abilities. The prominent 4 benefits of recalling memories include:

  1. Improving cognition
  2. Enhancing self-esteem and control
  3. Providing relief from boredom
  4. Relieving symptoms of depression and anxiety
  5. Reducing stress, aggression, and agitation
  6. Developing coping skills for dementia-related responsive behaviors like wandering, delusions, etc.
  7. Developing more positive feelings
  8. Providing a sense of continuity in terms of life events
  9. Enhancing quality of life and self-fulfillment

Tips To Engage in Reminiscence Therapy

Consider the following tips to get the best out of reminiscence therapy:

Tips To Help Older Adults Reminisce
  • There is no pressure on you to remember everything! Try to look at reminiscence as a fun activity rather than an excruciating task.
  • Take breaks whenever required. Remembering can be cognitively exhausting.
  • Write or record your stories as you remember them, to help you in the future.
  • Celebrate small achievements. If you managed to remember a significant event, treat yourself to something you like.


In recent decades, reminiscence therapy has emerged as a novel method to treat serious memory disorders and their associated psychological and behavioral problems. It has proved itself to be an inexpensive and potentially beneficial approach to helping people with dementia age happily and healthily.

At A Glance

  1. Reminiscence therapy uses the recollection of memories as a therapeutic technique.
  2. In this therapy, the act of reminiscence helps in memory consolidation and the improvement of cognitive-behavioral impairment.
  3. It is usually administered to people with dementia and brain injury or the elderly.
  4. It is often administered in nursing homes or geriatric health facilities.
  5. It can also reduce symptoms of depression, agitation, anxiety, etc. linked to the onset of dementia and other memory disorders.
👇 References:
  1. Woods, B., O’Philbin, L., Farrell, E. M., Spector, A. E., & Orrell, M. (2018). Reminiscence therapy for dementia. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews, 3(3), CD001120. []
  2. Klever S. (2013). Reminiscence therapy: finding meaning in memories. Nursing, 43(4), 36–37. []
  3. Haeusermann, T. (2018). The Dementia Village: Between Community and Society (F. Krause & J. Boldt, Eds.). PubMed; Palgrave Macmillan. Available from: []
  4. Thomas, J. M., & Sezgin, D. (2021). Effectiveness of reminiscence therapy in reducing agitation and depression and improving quality of life and cognition in long-term care residents with dementia: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Geriatric nursing (New York, N.Y.), 42(6), 1497–1506. [][]
  5. Liu, Z., Yang, F., Lou, Y., Zhou, W., & Tong, F. (2021). The Effectiveness of Reminiscence Therapy on Alleviating Depressive Symptoms in Older Adults: A Systematic Review. Frontiers in psychology, 12, 709853. []
  6. Moon, S., & Park, K. (2020). The effect of digital reminiscence therapy on people with dementia: a pilot randomized controlled trial. BMC geriatrics, 20(1), 166. []
  7. Hashim, A., Mohd. Rias, R., & Kamaruzaman, M. F. (2013). The Use of Personalized Digital Memory Book as a Reminiscence Therapy for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) Patients. Advances in Visual Informatics, 508–515. []
  8. Watt, L. M., & Cappeliez, P. (2000). Integrative and instrumental reminiscence therapies for depression in older adults: Intervention strategies and treatment effectiveness. Aging & Mental Health, 4(2), 166–177. []
  9. Merriam S. B. (1989). The structure of simple reminiscence. The Gerontologist, 29(6), 761–767. []
  10. Lo Gerfo M. (1980). Three ways of reminiscence in theory and practice. International journal of aging & human development, 12(1), 39–48. []
  11. Subramaniam, P., Woods, B., & Whitaker, C. (2014). Life review and life story books for people with mild to moderate dementia: a randomised controlled trial. Aging & mental health, 18(3), 363–375. []