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.


The rating system

  • 3 smiliesThese treatments are very useful. They are strongly supported as effective by scientific evidence.
  • 2 smiliesThese treatments are useful. They are supported by scientific evidence as effective, but the evidence is not as strong.
  • 1 smileyThese treatments are promising and may be useful. They have some evidence to support them, but more evidence is needed to be sure they work.
  • No smiley On the available evidence, these treatments do not seem to be effective.
  • Question markThese treatments have not been properly researched. It is not possible to say whether they are useful or not.
  • Exclamation MarkSafety or other concerns have been raised for the use of these treatments.

What is it?

Reminiscence therapy is a type of talking therapy that is used to treat depression in older people. In reminiscence therapy, the client reviews 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?

Reminiscence therapy can be structures or unstructured. Reminiscence therapy allows a person to reflect back on their life in a supportive environment. Reminiscence therapy might help to improve mood in a number of ways, such as:

  • creating the opportunity to appreciate oneself and recognise personal strengths;
  • being able to think back on and resolve past negative events;
  • increasing social contact with other people; and
  • feeling supported and listened to.

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 behaviour 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 therapists, such as psychologists and counsellors, or organisations that provide services to older people.


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

Key references

  • Jonsson U, Bertilsson G, Allard P, Gyllensvard H, Soderlund A, Tham A, et al. Psychological Treatment of Depression in People Aged 65 Years and Over: A Systematic Review of Efficacy, Safety, and Cost-Effectiveness. PloS One. 2016;11(8):e0160859.
  • 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
  • Syed Elias SM, Neville C, Scott T. The effectiveness of group reminiscence therapy for loneliness, anxiety and depression in older adults in long-term care: a systematic review. Geriatric Nursing. 2015; 36(5): 3 72-80.

Last reviewed and updated: 1 November 2019