Psychosocial Treatments for Schizophrenia


Linda Wasmer Andrews

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Schizophrenia can touch every facet of your life, including your ability to think clearly, communicate effectively, relate to others, hold a job, and take care of yourself. Antipsychotic medications can reduce many symptoms, but they can’t solve every problem. To maximize your ability to lead a full, productive life, psychosocial treatments are crucial, too.

Psychosocial approaches include social and vocational training, talk therapy, disease education, and peer support. One way or another, all these approaches help people live more successfully with schizophrenia. They’re designed to teach the essential skills needed to function better at home, work or school.

People with schizophrenia who are involved in these treatments are more likely to keep taking their medicine. That further increases their chance of getting better and staying that way. Down the road, they’re less likely to have a relapse or be hospitalized.

The following are some of the most common approaches used for treating schizophrenia.

Disease Education

This approach arms people with the basic facts about schizophrenia and its treatment. When people are well informed, they tend to make better decisions about their own care and cope more effectively when problems arise. For example, someone who knows how to recognize and respond to the early warning signs of a relapse may be able to keep a small setback from turning into a big one.

Disease education should be provided to people with schizophrenia as well as those close to them, so they can help handle the effects of the illness and achieve the best possible outcomes.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy


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If your doctor has prescribed psychosocial therapy, make sure you participate.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of talk therapy that helps people better manage their thoughts and behavior. Even when on medication, some people with schizophrenia have perceptions or thoughts that are out of touch with reality. CBT helps them learn to identify and control these symptoms. For example, they might learn how to tune out or interpret the voices in their head.

Family-Based Programs

Families often are the main source of care and support for people with schizophrenia. These programs give family members the information they need to be effective caregivers and also take care of their own needs. Among other things, family members might learn how to help a loved one stick with treatment and where to find services in the community. They can also receive support from other families dealing with similar issues.

Peer Support Groups

Support groups help people with schizophrenia and their families feel less alone. Members of the group offer each other emotional support, acceptance, and advice. Some groups also get involved in advocacy efforts that fight stigma and work to improve the lives of all people who have mental illness.

Psychosocial Rehabilitation

Psychosocial rehab focuses on social and vocational training. People learn skills they need for interacting with others, living in the community, and getting and keeping a job. For example, someone might learn how to apply for a job, use public transportation, budget money, and remember appointments.

Assertive Community Treatment

Assertive community treatment (ACT) gives people with severe mental illness the extra support they need to live successfully in the community. ACT professionals are available 24/7, if needed, and they often come to people’s homes. These professionals help people solve problems proactively, live more independently, and keep taking their medicine. Research shows that ACT may lessen symptoms and reduce hospitalizations.

Key Takeaways:

  • While antipsychotic medications can reduce many symptoms, they can’t solve every problem. Psychosocial treatments are crucial, too.

  • Social and vocational training, talk therapy, disease education, and peer support teach the essential skills needed to function better at home, work or school.

  • People with schizophrenia involved in these treatments are more likely to keep taking their medicine and less likely to have a relapse or be hospitalized.

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Apr 19, 2016

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Medical References

  1. Current Approaches to Treatments for Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders, Part II: Psychosocial Interventions and Patient-Focused Perspectives in Psychiatric Care. W.T. Chien et al. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 2013, vol. 9, pp. 1463-1481.
  2. Turner DT, van der Gaag M, Karyotaki E, Cuijpers P. Psychological Interventions for Psychosis: A Meta-Analysis of Comparative Outcome Studies. Am J Psychiatry. 2014 Feb 14. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2013.13081159.

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