A meta-analysis and systematic review of Memory Specificity Training (MeST) in the treatment of emotional disorders

Tom J. Barry, Wing Yan Sze, Filip Raes

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65 Citations (SciVal)


The tendency to recall events from one's past in a non-specific and overgeneral way has been found to predict the onset and severity of a range of emotional disorders. Memory Specificity Training (MeST) was devised a decade ago in order to target and modify this tendency so as to reduce the symptoms of emotional disorder or to reduce the risk that such disorders might emerge over time. We present a meta-analytical review of research into the effects of MeST on autobiographical memory specificity in the context of emotional disorders (k = 13). MeST was associated with substantial improvement in memory specificity (d = −1.21) and depressive symptoms (d = 0.47) and MeST groups outperformed control groups at post-intervention in terms of specificity (d = 1.08) and depressive symptoms (d = −0.29). However, these effects were transitory and the benefit of MeST over control groups was mostly lost by follow-up assessment. There was mixed evidence in terms of MeST's effects on other processes associated with reduced specificity but MeST showed evidence of improving problem solving abilities and hopelessness. MeST holds promise as a novel intervention targeting reduced specificity but future studies are warranted with control groups that enable the investigation of MeST's mechanism of action and in studies with larger and more varied samples.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-51
Number of pages16
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Publication statusPublished - May 2019


  • Aging
  • Depression
  • Memory
  • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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