Objective: To systematically review studies of cognitive remediation therapy (CRT) for anorexia nervosa (AN), and to discuss findings with references to clinical practice and future research.
Method: The literature was reviewed using the PubMed, Web of Science and PsycINFO search terms “cognitive remediation therapy” AND “anorexia nervosa”. Papers published online between 2005 and 2013 were selected on the basis of three inclusion criteria: 1) studies of any design focusing on CRT for AN, 2) papers that were written in English or had an available published English translation, and 3) papers published in peer reviewed journals.
Results: A total of 45 papers were identified of which 21 were recognized as being relevant for the review. Relevant papers were divided into three different categories 1) single case reports, 2) case series and 3) randomised controlled trials (RCTs). Single case studies and case series yielded strong evidence of feasibility and acceptability of CRT for AN despite great variety in sample compositions. Four RCTs demonstrate that CRT has the potential of enhancing the effectiveness of current treatments, reduce attrition, increase cognitive set-shifting abilities and quality of life, as well as reduce eating disorder psychopathology.
Discussion: The number of CRT studies published is growing rapidly, in particular RCTs. Further research is needed to define the primary aim of delivering CRT to patients with eating disorders, and to establish how to best measure the effect of the intervention. Moreover, researchers and clinicians should focus on identifying and assessing specific versus non-specific CRT contributions, and explore long-term effects of the intervention. It is imperative that adolescent RCTs are conducted to evaluate how CRT may be effective as a treatment for this young patient group.
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