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What Types of Therapy Treat Schizophrenia?

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Casarella, MD on February 28, 2021

Successful treatment for schizophrenia involves a mix of medication and therapy. People who do both are less likely to have a relapse or wind up in the hospital. Studies show this treatment pairing also improves their social skills and quality of life.

The most common types of therapy for schizophrenia include:

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). This treatment helps you change how you think and react to things. It also teaches you to deal with negative feelings by thinking about them in a different way so you feel good instead. To do this, you’ll need to identify patterns that make your life difficult. When you change those patterns, your symptoms can change. Your life becomes more manageable. CBT can help you learn to:

  • Solve problems
  • Understand others’ behavior
  • Face your fears
  • Find new ways to relax

The goal is for you take to control of your emotions. In this therapy, you learn skills that you can use for the rest of your life. Your therapist teaches you how to ignore thoughts and voices in your head. You’ll gain a new understanding of your reality. Here’s how it helps:

  • Improves social skills
  • Lowers relapse
  • Lessens symptoms
  • Builds confidence

Psychotherapy. This is also called talk therapy. You speak with a mental health provider such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist. You’ll talk about the problem areas of your life. And you’ll learn how to change your thinking to help manage stress.

In psychotherapy, you may meet your therapist on your own, or a loved one or your entire family may join your therapy sessions.

Family therapy. It may play a bigger role for people with schizophrenia than for those with other mental health conditions. Live-in treatment at a facility is less common than it was once. This puts the family in the role of caregiver for people with schizophrenia. Family members may need to help their loved one manage life, household, and work resources. It can be a lot for people who aren’t professionally trained. Your family members and treatment team should work closely together.

In this type therapy, families learn about schizophrenia as well as how to:

  • Lower stress
  • Manage emotional situations
  • Process emotions better
  • Solve problems

As part of the process, your family may talk about an issue that comes up again and again. They’ll discuss different ways to handle it in the future. And they’ll agree on a plan.

The benefits of family therapy for the person with schizophrenia include:

  • Fewer relapses
  • Improved social skills
  • More likely to take medications

Psychosocial therapy. In this type of treatment, you’ll learn how to deal with stress when it comes and get tools to lower stress triggers in the future. The goal is to fill some of your own mental health needs. You’ll work on building the skills you need to create happy experiences.

Support groups. Support groups bring people with the same challenges together. They help you feel like you’re not alone. You’ll talk about the issues you face and share your successes. You may build friendships and get advice on ways to manage your schizophrenia symptoms.

Peer-to-peer counseling. This is support from someone who also has schizophrenia. They’re able to offer advice and share their stories. You can talk about your challenges and share successes. The goal is to connect through similar experiences. You may do so in a group meeting, on the phone, or online via social media or a group chat.

The benefits of this type of therapy include:

  • Improved self-esteem
  • Broader understanding of your problems
  • Fewer symptoms
  • Better quality of life

Occupational therapy (OT). Studies show that OT helps ease symptoms for people with schizophrenia. But you don’t focus on your symptoms in this type of therapy. Instead, you’ll work on getting better at day-to-day tasks and take part in activities. These may include arts and crafts or other things that give you joy.

Self-management strategies. This type of treatment is based on the belief that you know yourself better than anyone else. You’ll set goals and build the skills you need to achieve them. You may practice them in a group or as part of peer-to-peer support. You’ll learn to manage your symptoms, face the things that trouble you, and make choices to improve your life. One way do this is by exercising and eating well. Other methods include writing, meditating, talking, and socializing.

School assistance. People with schizophrenia have a 20% higher college dropout rate. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Schools can provide support to help you better manage your symptoms. The Americans With Disabilities Act provides support for public school students with schizophrenia. Your school leadership can put a system in place for you.

Work assistance. It’s your choice to tell your employer about your illness and ask for accommodations at work. These are changes to your workplace that allow you equal treatment and chances to succeed. They may include a quiet area to work or letting you work from home. You may need short breaks throughout the day to manage stress or permission to leave regularly for doctors’ appointments.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

International Journal of Emergency Mental Health and Human Resilience: “Letter to Editor Open Access Peer to Peer Support in Schizophrenia.”

NYU Langone Health: “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Schizophrenia.”

American Psychological Association: “What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?”

National Alliance on Mental Illness: “A Diagnosis of Mental Illness Need Not End a College Career,” 

“Psychosocial Treatments.”

BJPsych Advances: “Family therapy and schizophrenia: a brief theoretical overview and a framework for clinical practice.”

Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment: “The role of family therapy in the management of schizophrenia: challenges and solutions.”

Journal of Family Therapy: “Family therapy and adult mental illness: schizophrenia and depression.”

American Mental Wellness Association: “Peer Support.”

Japan Journal of Nursing Science: “Occupational therapy for inpatients with chronic schizophrenia: A pilot randomized controlled trial.”

Cochrane: “Occupational therapy for schizophrenia by occupational therapists compared to others.”

Mental Health Foundation: “Self-management of mental ill-health.”

International Mental Health Collaborating Network: “Self Help and Self Management.”

Teen Mental Health.org: “Schizophrenia.”

Cedars-Sinai: “Schizophrenia in Children.”

ADA National Network: “Mental Health Conditions in the Workplace and the ADA.”

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