Therapy for Management of Schizophrenia
While medication is considered the primary treatment for schizophrenia, therapy for schizophrenia is also critical in successful management of schizophrenia. Therapies that address the psychology of the individual, as well as their behaviors and skills, can all help in schizophrenia management. Therapy for schizophrenia is generally done once a person is already stabilized on medication.
There are several types of schizophrenia therapy known collectively as "psychosocial" therapies. Psychosocial refers to therapies that address the psychology of the person, as well as the way in which they interact with their social environment. Types of psychosocial therapy include:
- Substance abuse treatment – when substance abuse issues are present
- Illness management skills including education for the individual and their family
- Rehabilitation –social skills, cognitive and vocational training
- Cognitive behavioral and other types of psychotherapy for schizophrenia
- Self-help / support groups
Illness Management Therapy for Schizophrenia
When a person is diagnosed with schizophrenia, one of the major challenges is learning about the illness because so many people have false notions about the disease (see Myths of Schizophrenia). Education about mental illness, in general, and schizophrenia in particular, gives a person a foundation on which to build schizophrenia management techniques.
On top of this education, many skills can be taught to help a person with schizophrenia manage their own illness. Part of this therapy for schizophrenia includes:1
- Education on the symptoms of schizophrenia
- Training on how to look for early warning signs of a relapse
- What do to in the event of a relapse
- How to create and use a treatment plan
- How to prevent a relapse
- How to manage everyday symptoms of schizophrenia
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Rehabilitation Therapy for Schizophrenia
Rehabilitation therapy for schizophrenia can take many forms but its focus is on improving a person’s ability to think and interact with the world around them. Rehabilitation therapy is designed to address the deficits caused by schizophrenia.
Vocational training and support programs are one example. Because schizophrenia typically occurs during the years when people enter the job market, they may not have the skills to compete (see Schizophrenia Facts and Statistics). Vocational training aims to change that. Supported employment programs can also help a person with schizophrenia get and maintain gainful employment.
Cognitive training is designed to address the cognitive deficits created by schizophrenia. This schizophrenia management technique is based on the principle that brain cells can be encouraged to grow and this additional growth can be created through cognitive exercises. Computerized skills practice is one form of cognitive training. It’s known that cognitive training can lead to lasting improvement in functioning that continues even after the training is stopped.2
Social skills therapy for schizophrenia is also important, as those with schizophrenia are known to have trouble developing social relationships and understanding social cues.
Psychotherapy for Schizophrenia
Various types of psychotherapy can be useful in treating schizophrenia. One-on-one psychotherapy can be useful, as can family therapy, to address the issues that schizophrenia has created within the family’s dynamics.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for schizophrenia is the most studied psychotherapy and it focuses on changing how a person thinks and behaves. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help with the management of schizophrenia symptoms that are not addressed by medication and help prevent relapse. This type of therapy for schizophrenia helps teach a person not to listen to the auditory hallucinations that are often part of schizophrenia.
Among other things, psychotherapy for schizophrenia can help:
- Facilitate communication with others, like family and friends
- Address substance abuse issues
- Encourage health lifestyle choices
- Address additional disorders like anxiety and depression
- Develop social skills
- Manage stress
Self-Help and Support Group Therapy for Schizophrenia
While professional therapies centered around the person with schizophrenia have many uses, they cannot replace the community and support often found in group therapy environments. Group therapy for schizophrenia has the benefit of bringing together like-minded people and creating a space in which people know that everyone there really “gets” what the others are going through. Everyone in the group feels less alone and they can advocate and comfort each other during the more challenging parts of the mental illness.
Professional members may or may not be involved and often these groups are run by community and national organizations like the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI). Support groups can also be found for the family of the person with schizophrenia.
No matter how it’s found, it’s critical to remember that therapy for schizophrenia is available and does work.