A HappyNeuron Pro Case Study:

University of Texas Southwestern Medical, Center Department of Psychiatry

Type: Psychosis, Cognitive Rehabilitation

Location: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Department of Psychiatry

Dallas, Texas, USA

HappyNeuron Pro User Since: 2019

Making Cognitive Rehabilitation Therapy Dynamic with Digital Cognitive Therapy Tools

About Debra Bushong, MS, LPC-S

Psychological disorders impact not only mental health but cognitive functioning. Cognitive remediation therapy offers a way to help patients with psychological disorders build cognitive skills needed for everyday functioning. At UT Southwestern Medical Center, Debra Bushong works with adults who have psychological disorders on building cognitive skills, social skills, and understanding themselves.

Debra Bushong provides the HOPE program which stands for healing over psychosis early for adults in the Dallas metropolitan area. The HOPE program grew from a sister research program run by Dr. Carol Tamminga. In the HOPE program, group members perform computerized cognitive exercises using HappyNeuron Pro, group discussions, and bridging activities. 

We run what we call the CORE skills  program. CORE is short for cognitive remediation and skills is short for social skills. We put a program together after reviewing a lot of cognitive remediation material… I settled with Alice Medalia’s NEAR strategies and incorporated most of her material into the cognitive remediation program…the [group members] do not get to a point where they are bored or not stimulated cognitively because I have a lot of flexibility to keep them challenged and moving.

Debra uses HappyNeuron Pro along with a few other programs to work on cognitive skills with her clients. Because HappyNeuron Pro has built in functionality to provide users with a sense of reward as they progress through exercises, users can feel a sense of accomplishment as they reach more difficult levels. This functionality is available in all 45+ of HappyNeuron Pro’s exercises.

“[Clients] never get to a point where they are bored, because I have a lot of flexibility that way to keep them challenged and keep them moving. The cognitive remediation programs we are using have [those features] built in anyway” – Debra Bushong.

In her program, Debra does work on understanding and normalizing the experiences of the group members living with psychosis. People with psychological disorders may experience paranoia, delusional thinking, or bizarre thoughts. Debra works with her clients on helping them work through experiencing these thoughts and normalizing them in order to understand them and to not feel stigmatized from having a psychological disorder.

“Is this a normal thought or is this a thought that I should challenge or not listen to because it may or may not be real? We do a lot of normalizing in order to destigmatize severe psychosis. We might be talking about something like [people talking about other people] and maybe [group members with psychosis] shouldn’t engage in a conversation [when they think that someone is talking about them]…but [group members] can normalize that situation by saying “you know, it’s very interesting that you’re talking about that because that’s the same kind of stuff that I think about sometimes”…[group members] are often surprised that people who do not have psychosis have similar thoughts as they do”.Debra Bushong.

Debra works with her clients on working through the experience of psychosis. Using cognitive remediation, she works with her clients on cognitive skills such as attention and executive functioning which are needed for being able to work through psychotic thinking. By working on these cognitive skills, Debra helps her clients learn how to step back, regulate their emotions, and look at a situation and examine it if it is based in reality. This also transfers for her clients in being able to manage relationships with family members and friends when her clients feel that there may be a conflict.

“When [a client] is at home, and [they] are very frustrated with a conversation that they are having with their parents, they can [use a strategy to calm themselves down]…[avoiding] an argument” – Debra Bushong.

Programs like Debra’s HOPE program are helpful for people living with psychosis. By using a digital tool to practice cognitive skills, individuals can build the foundation of essential cognitive skills needed for everyday functioning. Therapists can facilitate generalization of these practiced cognitive skills by guiding group discussions, reflection, and having clients perform real-world bridging activities. The variety of content on HappyNeuron Pro allows therapists to have access to different exercises that they can use to create customized therapy plans for their clients. 

Video Interview

Video Interview

Page last updated on Oct 21,2021

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