Bringing Cognitive Remediation to British Columbia: A One-Day Conference

Saturday, October 14, 2017
9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Paetzold Theatre, Vancouver Hospital

People living with schizophrenia and psychotic disorders can be affected by positive symptoms, negative symptoms and/or cognitive deficits.

“For some people, the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia are subtle, but for others, they are more severe and patients may notice changes in their memory or other aspects of thinking. Similar to negative symptoms, cognitive symptoms may be difficult to recognize as part of this brain disorder. Often, they are detected only when specific tests are performed. Cognitive symptoms include the following:

  • Poor “executive functioning” (the ability to understand information and use it to make decisions)
  • Trouble focusing or paying attention
  • Problems with “working memory” (the ability to use information immediately after learning it)

Poor cognition is related to worse employment and social outcomes and can be distressing to individuals [living] with schizophrenia.”

“For some people, the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders are minimal, but for others they are severe and widespread.  Problems with learning and memory, attention, problem-solving, the speed of processing information and being able to understand social situations can greatly affect a person’s life.   Like negative symptoms,  cognitive problems are under-recognized as a core feature of schizophrenia. Yet, cognitive status is a more important predictor of outcomes such as work, daily functioning and ability to have a rewarding social life.”

However, in recent years, a variety of evidence-based cognitive remediation programs have been developed to help people who have lost cognitive abilities because of psychiatric illnesses. While widely implemented in other countries, Canada is just beginning to recognize the extent of the problems related to cognitive losses and the kinds of resources that we could make available to people.

This conference will describe the kinds of cognitive losses that frequently occur and will discuss a variety of cognitive remediation programs. Participants will also learn about an efficient method developed at Columbia University for training staff to deliver cognitive remediation programs:   As well, related initiatives that are emerging in B.C. will be presented.

Please R.S.V.P. to Ben Leslie ( to receive updates about the conference. Registration will open in mid-July 2017.

This conference is sponsored by B.C. Schizophrenia Society (BCSS) with support from B.C. Psychosis Program, B.C. Psychosis Rehabilitation Advanced Practice, B.C. Early Psychosis Intervention program (EPI), UBC Institute of Mental Health (IMH) and Vancouver Coastal Health Family Support and Involvement Team.



Keynote Speakers:

Dr. Alice Medalia (Director, Psychiatric Rehabilitation | Columbia University)

Dr. Medalia is an international leader in the field of psychiatric rehabilitation, who focuses on the treatment of neuropsychological disorders in psychiatric illness. She developed the widely used Neuropsychological & Educational Approach to Remediation (NEAR) model of cognitive remediation, which has been disseminated worldwide in psychiatric, educational, forensic, and supportive housing settings and used with people diagnosed with schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and mild cognitive impairment. This model helps people with mental illness improve their thinking skills in such areas as attention, memory, processing speed and problem solving. She lectures and consults to agencies worldwide and conducts training workshops for clinicians who want to learn how to provide cognitive remediation to psychiatric patients. Dr. Medalia works with policy makers, researchers, clinicians, families and patients to bring awareness about the impact of cognitive dysfunction on recovery. In order to facilitate greater awareness about cognition in the rehabilitation field, she started the largest conference on this topic, Cognitive Remediation in Psychiatry, which takes place the first Friday in June in New York City. Her research focuses on the factors that impact a successful recovery of neuropsychological functions. Dr. Medalia’s contributions as a Neuropsychologist, Researcher and Advocate of Cognitive Remediation have won her awards from professional and advocacy groups.

By focusing on cognitive health in addition to mental health, cognitive remediation seeks to improve critical thinking skills, enabling people to be more effective in their daily lives and pursue their goals for recovery in a purposeful and meaningful way.

Dr. Medalia was also instrumental in developing the Teach Recovery program, which aims to provide information and train mental health professionals about how to improve cognitive functioning for people with psychiatric illnesses. More information on Teach Recovery can be found here.


Dr. Christopher Bowie (Director, Cognitive & Psychotic Disorders Lab | Queen’s University)

Dr. Bowie is a Canadian expert on cognitive remediation, who is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry, and a member of the Centre for Neuroscience Studies, at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. He is also a Clinician-Scientist (part-time) at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Ontario. His research interests focus on the determining the causes and correlates, and developing treatments for, cognitive deficits in chronic mental disorders such as schizophrenia and major affective disorders. His laboratory at Queen’s is developing new empirical methods to evaluate how symptoms of mental illnesses produce biobehavioural changes in people who encounter them, in order to more clearly delineate the role of stigma and reactive social distancing toward those with mental disorders. After receiving his Ph.D. from Hofstra University and completing an internship at the Clinical Neuroscience Center of Pilgrim Psychiatric Center, he did post-doctoral training with Dr. Barbara Cornblatt where he supervised neuropsychological testing and studied cognitive treatment outcomes, earning a Young Investigator Award from NARSAD. Dr. Bowie took an academic appointment with Dr. Philip Harvey at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and continued to study the functional consequences of cognitive impairment in schizophrenia. He was awarded a second NARSAD Young Investigator Award for a study of cognitive remediation in schizophrenia.

Currently he is leading multiple trials of cognitive remediation for chronic mental disorders, including an Independent Investigator Award from the Brain and Behavior Foundation to study how to deliver cognitive remediation to the homes of people with serious mental illness. He is the author of more than 85 scientific publications and five book chapters.

Both Dr. Medalia and Dr. Bowie are co-editors of the recently published anthology, Cognitive Remediation to Improve Functional Outcomes. Oxford University Press, 2016.


Cognitive Remediation: Selected Readings and Links