What is Executive Function?

Here at Gateways to Transformation we want to facilitate our clients ability to go out into the world and engage or re-engage in a meaningful and productive life. This may include going back to school or pursuing a career/work, and having successful relationships. One of the important factors involved in the clients ability to accomplish this is called Executive Function (the ability to engage in goal directed activities).

Executive Function begins to develop in the frontal lobe at the age of 2 and continues on into early adulthood. Some of the components of Executive Function includes attention, ability to follow multiple step directions, working memory, emotional regulation, and cognitive flexibility(ability to shift sets or go with the flow when plans change)
These functions are essential to effectively engaging in daily activities. We must be able to plan, organize, prioritize, manage time, perform tasks without being distracted by irrelevant environmental stimuli, take in information and process it with what knowledge we already have and use this information to make decisions. We must inhibit some behaviors that are not acceptable and regulate our emotions in response to the stimuli presented in our environments

Sometimes Executive Function skills can be underdeveloped, damaged or have blocks that arise for example from physical or mental trauma. This results in Executive Dysfunction(1).
In a review of literature regarding executive function and mental health, Farzad Akbaryan found the connection between Executive Function and mental health to be significant (2)
Charles DeBatista found a significant correlation between major depressive episode and impaired Executive Function. The types of Executive Dysfunction found in persons with depression include planning, initiating and completing tasks

There are a number of Psychiatric conditions that correlate with impairments of Executive Function

  • Our team of professionals are skilled at facilitating increased Executive Function skills. Our goal is for our clients have the ability to lead healthy productive lives in school, work, play and in their relationships with others
  • We recommend at any level of treatment for this issue, the  client not live at home so that they don’t fall back into old patterns with family and roommates.
  • At Gateways, we have both a gap year program (The Quest) and a intensive outpatient program (From Failure to Fullfilled.) At our other business, Rites of Passage, we address this issue in partial hospital residential treatment.
  • Gateways has transitional living spaces to provide housing for clients engaged in either program.


Deborah Solomon




Executive dysfunction in major depressive disorder: Charles DeBattista Expert Rev Neurother 2005 January

Understanding Executive dysfunction and how it shows up: Jamie Herndon M. S, MPH, MFA and Crystal Raypole

Executive Function and Mental Health, Health: Farzad Akbaryan University of Alberta

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