Indeed, cognitive remediation has been shown to reshape the brains of some mentally ill people positively, said Medalia, lead organizer of an annual conference on cognitive remediation in psychiatry in New York, hosted this month.
In 1998, many of her colleagues dismissed the merits of her first randomized controlled trial on the subject, said Medalia, who is also director of Columbia's Lieber Recovery and Rehabilitation Clinic for Psychotic Disorders.
"The prevailing attitude was that people with schizophrenia couldn't change ... (or) anyone with brain disease," she said
Just as those beliefs are being debunked, so, too, are many people's views on mental illness, which "has to be looked at like other chronic diseases," said Gagne, deputy project director at the Center for Social Innovation, a Boston organization that helps the mentally ill get access to appropriate social and health services.
"Some diabetics respond well to insulin, some don't," she said. "Some need to try out different medications. Some die very young of diabetes. The point, in terms of mental illness, is that it's no longer enough to merely be focused on reducing the obvious symptoms. There also has to be a lot of focus around a person's hopes and dreams and goals. It's about helping people see that this illness is something you have. It also is something that you can live well with."