Cognitive Disorders

When the Mind Runs Awry

There are few mental problems more frustrating than cognitive disorders. Devastating in their subtle and often not-so-subtle effects on the life of a victim and their family, these problems are seldom understood by outsiders. The false assumptions and some suggestions for how to help, only complicate an already complicated situation.

Cognitive problems and therapy:

  • Amnesia, delirium, dementia: the big three
  • Memory and reason
  • Treatment

A Shared Human Dilemma

Few of us will go through life without experiencing some form of cognitive disorder, at some time and on some level of dysfunction. The most common root problems, amnesia, delirium, and dementia, can attack for so many reasons, with so many repercussions and so many variables of treatment and duration, than it is not incorrect to consider various aspects of these disorders as basic elements of the human condition.

Whether a patient suffers from cognitive disorder as a life-long heritage from birth, or because of illness, injury, chemical disruption, or physical breakdown, the problems that follow from the condition all lead to an impaired ability to process basic mental tasks reliably.

A Threat to the Basic Functions of the Mind

By attacking the fundamental ability of the mind to retain accurate information and process it appropriately, cognitive disorders threaten the ability of a person to function as an independent adult in society.

In some cases, there is very little that can be done to “cure” cognitive disorders. While progress is being made to repair difficulties brought on by imbalanced brain chemistry, those caused by genetic disorders, and various forms of neurological damage from injury, illness, chemical abuse, or such events as strokes, can do harm that doctors don’t yet know how to repair.

However, therapy for cognitive disorders can help train those with durable problems in cognitive ability to compensate for many kinds of damage. By working to strengthen and enhance memory creation and retrieval, promote problem solving, and build responsible and reliable habits for dealing with the world around us, counselors can help ensure that victims of cognitive disorders lead the fullest lives possible.


Most treatments for cognitive dysfunction are based on regular counseling sessions focused on teaching skills, combined with sessions aimed at rebuilding damaged structures of thought and memory. In instances where a cognitive disorder is being expressed through a disruptive reaction caused by the damage – such as a phobia, or a problem with emotional control – a counselor may also add layers of personal counseling to further integrate new patterns and conditioning.

Current theories tend to favor a direct, non-psychological approach to cognitive skills, focusing not on aspects of personality development, but on more physical elements of illness, injury or physical erosion due to age. In spite of this, old methods of psychological counseling can prove more productive for some individuals.

Finding a Good Cognitive Therapist

Finding a trained, practicing cognitive therapist involves a real challenge. The training and skills involved are vast, and few of us are equipped to judge the strengths offered by a candidate. By making use of various forms of referral service, from hospital referrals to professional referral agencies, we can draw on the accumulated knowledge of individuals who deal with the issues we face.

The search for sound and reliable counseling isn’t easy. While other resources can and should be tapped, including school referrals and referrals from your insurance support network or your pediatrician, a professional referral agency lives and dies by knowing the professionals in its areas of expertise.

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