An Introduction to Cognitive Stimulation Therapy

Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST) is a brief, evidence-based treatment for people with mild to moderate dementia. UK Government NICE guidance on the management of dementia recommends of group Cognitive Stimulation Therapy for people with mild to moderate dementia (1).

CST session

Group CST treatment involves 14 or more sessions of themed activities, which typically run twice weekly. Longer-term, or 'Maintenance CST', is outlined in a published treatment manual (2). Sessions aim to actively stimulate and engage people with dementia, whilst providing an optimal learning environment and the social benefits of a group. The effects of CST appear to be of a comparable size to those reported with the currently available pharmacological treatments for dementia (3).

Where is CST available?

CST is widely used across the UK, and is offered by NHS trusts and charities. Find out more on our page Accessing CST.

CST is now also being used globally, with work ongoing in at least 34 countries. Visit the UCL International CST Centre website for more information about CST around the world, current research projects, and international events and conferences.

Who can deliver Cognitive Stimulation Therapy?

CST treatment can be administered by anyone working with people with dementia, such as care workers, psychologists, occupational therapists or nurses. CST groups can take place in various settings including residential homes, hospitals or day centres. Practitioners can learn to provide CST for people with dementia by following the CST manual or attending training.

Can Cognitive Stimulation Therapy be delivered one-to-one?

More recently, a one-to-one individualised version of CST, known as iCST, has been developed. Sessions follow similar themes and principles to group CST, and can be offered by family carers of health professionals. Visit the UCL iCST website for more information or the iCST Dementia Training and Consultancy website to book training.

What are the treatment options for dementia?

Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of neurodegenerative diseases or conditions. They are often characterised by symptoms such as memory loss, difficulty planning or making decisions and trouble with language or thinking. Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia are the most common forms.

Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for dementia. However, some medications, called acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, are available to help with symptoms and can be prescribed by a GP in the UK. In other countries, these medications may not be available and you should discuss your options with your primary physician.

Medication is not appropriate for everyone and there are alternative therapies that people can access. One of these is CST but there are many more including Reality Orientation Therapy and Reminiscence Therapy. Of the alternative therapies available, it is generally accepted that CST has the best evidence base for improving some of the cognitive symptoms of dementia and improving quality of life.