Making a Difference: Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST).

Cognitive Stimulation Therapy is an evidence-based group intervention for people living with dementia.

I self-funded and attended my first CST training day in 2019. I remember it well. I was studying my MSc in Health Psychology with Bournemouth University and it was just before I started my full-time role as an Activity Coordinator on an NHS inpatient assessment ward. I had read a research article on CST and was amazed with the findings! For me taking a role which has the potential to improve a person's quality of life is everything. This aligns completely with my personal and professional values.

One of my supervisors in my MSc clinical placement (amazing supervisor!!!!), would always ask me 'why' during our conversations. During our interactions this 'why', helped me reflect on my self and my practice. I think this is one of the biggest lessons I have had throughout most of my academic journey thus far!
Know your 'why' AND be confident to ask 'why'
...this ensures we are critical in both our approach and application.
Which is essential when we are supporting people.

So, 'Why' CST...

So, 'why' CST. Firstly, it has an impressive evidence base (Spector et al, 2010). It has been shown that there is a statistically significant cognitive improvement when measured by MMSE (mini mental state examination) for people with dementia completing their CST programme. There has also been improvement in self-reported quality of life following the programme (Spector et al, 2003). The results actually suggested the CST intervention was as effective as the drug intervention.

Secondly. the intervention is very well designed and straightforward to deliver. Facilitators do not need specialist qualifications or expensive training and equipment. Two facilitators is enough to deliver a group session. The sessions aren't very long, ideally 45 minutes, but some have said they like to extend to 60 minutes for discussions and feedback.

Thirdly (but not lastly), CST is suitable for use in hospitals, care homes, day centres, and within community settings. This makes it an accessible and social intervention which has shown to improve testing memory and other abilities.

Covid-19 has seen the 'group and social' part of our lives disbanded. Whilst this is understandable from a safety perspective, we have seen what this has meant for the person living with dementia and their loved ones. Not only those based in the community, but also those in hospitals and care homes.

I recently invested and attended a training session for individual Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (iCST). Not only did I love the training, but came away understanding the potential iCST has to offer those living with dementia. Following on from the Covid-19 issue mentioned earlier, iCST is well placed to fill the void that Covid-19 has created and alleviate the sense of loneliness and seclusion it has left behind. iCST is another evidence-based provision which builds on the existing work of CST and delivers a programme to the individual with dementia who may be otherwise unable to attend a group CST

iCST has been shown to stimulate activity, encourage new ideas and thoughts, helps to orientate to the present moment, it empowers by drawing on a person's strengths, the idea of reminiscence is used positively and sensitively (a person isn't 'tested' on their memories), language and everyday skills and habits are prompted by encouraging activities, all the 75 individual activities are person-centred, and I feel person-led. The person is empowered to make choices and have fun!

iCST is a family affair - carers, spouses, friends and grand-children can all get involved in the delivery!


You can visit the website of iCST founder Dr Phuong Leung for more information.


I value having my CST toolbox which I can grab and go - knowing that there's the right tool inside that will help a person living with dementia in some way.


For me personally, I believe CST and iCST has much to offer. An opportunity to relax, have fun, be expressive, empowered and enjoy!

As mentioned, CST as a group based cognitive stimulation therapy is well established in many areas (globally - not just the UK!), but there is space for it to grow! With a growing evidence base which shows CST can improve cognition and quality of life in people with dementia, it is something many of us are motivated to share!

If you share an interest in CST and iCST please connect with me! I am so inspired by this work and I am determined to positively contribute to the lives of those who are living with dementia, whether that is themselves or through a loved one.

Till next time, take care and speak soon!

Best wishes as always,

Amy :-)