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Aust Occup Ther J. 2009 Aug;56(4):220-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1630.2008.00759.x.

Profile of cognitive problems in schizophrenia and implications for vocational functioning.

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  • 1Occupational Therapy Department, Institute of Mental Health, Singapore.



This literature review attempts to profile specific areas of cognition that have shown unique and consistent evidence of dysfunction among people with schizophrenia. In addition, their impact on vocational functioning is illustrated, so as to highlight the importance of managing these cognitive difficulties in vocational rehabilitation.


Literature search was carried out on seven key cognitive domains identified by the National Institute of Mental Health in the USA. Their impact on vocational function was also reviewed.


It is found that attention, declarative and working memory, reasoning, problem-solving and social cognition are areas of impairment that have great impact on vocational functioning. Attention and memory problems affect learning of new work tasks. Executive function is particularly crucial in determining supported and open employment outcomes, as executive dysfunction cannot be easily compensated. Lastly, social cognition plays a major role in determining the success of workplace social exchanges.


Occupational therapists need to have a good understanding of the profile of cognitive problems among people with schizophrenia, in order to tailor our intervention according to their cognitive strengths and difficulties. Several cognitive remediation strategies and programs have been designed specifically for people with mental illness. Equipping ourselves with skills in conducting such programs will augment our expertise in vocational rehabilitation.

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