Reminiscence Therapy

Our rating
 1 smiley: This treatment is promising and may be useful. It has some evidence to support it, but more evidence is needed to be sure it works.

What is it?

Reminiscence therapy is used to treat depression in older people. It involves the person reviewing the significant events of their life, both positive and negative. Reminiscence therapy is done with the guidance of a therapist, and can be done individually or in a group setting.

How does it work?

The theory behind reminiscence therapy is that a person will naturally reflect back on their experiences as they approach the end of their life. People who do not do this are thought at risk of developing despair and depression.

Is it effective?

There is a small amount of evidence to show that reminiscence therapy is helpful for depression in older people. It has been found to be more effective than receiving no treatment. It has also been found to be more effective than placebo (dummy) pills.  Reminiscence therapy has been found to be about as effective as cognitive behavioural therapy in older people.

Are there any disadvantages?

None known.

Where do you get it?

Reminiscence therapy is not as widely available as other types of therapy. It may be available from some organisations that provide services to older people.


There is some evidence that reminiscence therapy is effective for treating for depression in older people, but more research is needed.

Key references

  • Peng XD, Huang CQ, Chen LJ, Lu ZC. Cognitive behavioural therapy and reminiscence techniques for the treatment of depression in the elderly: a systematic review. Journal of  International Medical Research. 2009 Jul-Aug;37(4):975-8
  • Francis, J.L., Kumar, A. (2013) Psychological treatment of Late-Life depression. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 36: 561-575.

Last reviewed and updated: 1 December 2016