Schizophrenia is a severe mental illness that makes an individual interpret reality abnormally. It’s characterized by hallucinations, troubled speech, delusion, difficulty thinking properly and making decisions, and a lack of motivation. While there’s currently no cure for the disease, modern treatment can help improve most of its symptoms and reduce the likelihood of its occurrence.
This is good news for those who suffer through its intense episodes. Therapy, medication, and other forms of treatment today are based on a thorough study of its causes, beginning with genetics, behavioral research, and even studying the brain’s function and structure. This offers hope for patients as mental health resources and treatment centers now abound.
If you or a loved one shows signs of schizophrenia, don’t hesitate to reach out to mental health specialists who can prescribe a treatment program to meet your specific needs. Aside from medication, effective treatment for schizophrenia involves therapy. Some therapy techniques include the following:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
A preferred type of psychotherapy is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It can help patients suffering from schizophrenia identify and change any inaccurate perceptions they may have about themselves and the world around them. The therapist assists the patient come up with new ways of thinking to better ascertain what a wrong and right assumption is.
Generally speaking, CBT is highly recommended for the following patients:
- Those who have other illnesses aside from schizophrenia that causes disability and interpersonal problems
- Those who think in ways that perpetuate and trigger their mental illness
- Those who are unable to take antidepressant medications or refuse to take it
CBT is a short-term therapy characterized by weekly hour-long sessions lasting 12 to 16 weeks. With its problem-solving approach, CBT is likely to reduce the onset of symptoms and lower the risk of any relapse.
During each of those sessions, the following are to be expected:
- Get an overview of how to journal your thoughts to have a better record of your negative thoughts
- Be given a thorough check-in on your current mental outlook
- Be given a task to do at home to test any behavioral modification method you may have learned during the session
- Have a thorough discussion on your current medication status
- Be given well-defined instructions on how to introduce any behavioral changes
Supportive psychotherapy helps a patient get on the road to having better self-esteem. During each session, the therapist will coach the patient on managing any unhelpful thoughts they may have, such as anxiety, all on their own.
Two of the most common types of supportive psychotherapy used are the following:
- Art And Music Therapy: This type of therapy is used to help the patient process and express grief and other related feelings.
- Animal-Assisted Therapy: This therapy uses animals like dogs to ease symptoms of anxiety and depression in patients.
Coordinated Specialty Care
Coordinated specialty care (CSC) is a treatment program given through a team approach. In this type of therapy, a team of specialists provides a combination of psychotherapy, medications like antipsychotic drugs, along with family support and applicable interventions at work or school.
The goal is to establish a strong support system as soon as psychotic symptoms are observed to prevent the situation from worsening. The active involvement of the patient’s family is encouraged as much as possible. With early diagnosis and timely intervention, patients can have better chances of living a healthier and normal life.
Once the patient and the team of specialists notice that psychosis recedes, medication and psychosocial therapy may be encouraged as a supporting recourse. This type of intervention helps the patient move forward towards having an overall better quality of life.
The different types of psychosocial therapy which may be conducted are:
- Supported Employment And Vocational Rehabilitation: With this, patients are given the support they need to prepare for and find jobs.
- Social Skills Training: This training is given to improve social interaction and communication, with the end goal of being able to participate in daily activities.
- Family Therapy: This enables the family to be actively involved in the care and recovery of the schizophrenic patient.
While many schizophrenic patients may be treated as outpatients, there are instances when hospitalization is necessary as they undergo therapy and treatment. Generally, hospitalization is recommended for the following patients:
- Those who can no longer take care of themselves at home
- Those who live alone and have no support system at home
- Those who have severe symptoms
- Those who have a higher risk of harming themselves
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is another safe and effective type of therapy administered to patients with severe symptoms. With ECT, a small electric current is used to stimulate the brain briefly. Patients need to be in a hospital setting, as anesthesia will also be used. You’ll usually be asleep for around five minutes, with every seizure lasting 20 seconds to a minute.
Once done, you’ll be moved to the recovery ward, where you’ll stay until you wake up from the anesthesia. The whole procedure lasts an average of 30 minutes. Afterward, you’ll be sent home from the hospital.
Before undergoing this procedure, you should be given an in-depth explanation of what to expect during each session. It’s important to note that the use of ECT is recommended by psychiatrists for the following reasons:
- It has been shown to be effective in potentially reducing and improving symptoms of depression.
- It works as an alternative treatment, particularly when medications that are previously given do not seem to be working for the patient.
- It works quickly and produces good results.
Deep Brain Stimulation
Research is being conducted to look into deep brain stimulation (DBS) for treating schizophrenia. This procedure involves surgically implanting electrodes to stimulate specific brain areas believed to control perception and thinking.
DBS is also successfully used for other diseases like essential tremor, epilepsy, severe stages of Parkinson’s Disease, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, for psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia, research and experiments are still being conducted.
During an individual psychotherapy session, a psychiatrist works closely with the schizophrenic patient to teach him how to deal with his behavior and thoughts. It starts with a period of self-discovery, whereby the patient learns more about his illness and its effects.
Moreover, during individual psychotherapy, the patient will be able to tell the difference between what’s real and what isn’t, something a schizophrenic patient often struggles with.
Aside from those mentioned above, there are many other benefits that a patient with schizophrenia can gain from undergoing individual psychotherapy. They include the following:
- It enables the patient to learn different problem-solving skills and healthy coping techniques.
- It helps the patient understand the different ideas, behaviors, and emotions that contribute to his illness.
- It leads the patient towards having better control and a sense of pleasure in life.
There are different types of psychotherapy that can be administered to a patient, such as the following:
- Psychodynamic Therapy
This type of therapy works best for patients who experience the feeling that they’re going through emotional problems because of unresolved and subconscious conflicts tracing back to their childhood.
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is administered to patients who are identified as high-risk or difficult to treat. In this form of treatment, the therapist helps the patient resolve the evident contradiction between acceptance and change.
Initially, DBT was used for patients with strong suicidal tendencies and borderline personality disorder. It has been shown to be effective in enhancing life skills through the following ways:
- Interpersonal Effectiveness: This gives the patient a better way of navigating conflict, resulting in improved relationships with others.
- Distress Tolerance: Distress tolerance techniques help the patient deal more effectively with a crisis and the intense emotions that usually go with it.
- Mindfulness: Mindfulness skills enable the patient to calm down and focus on his thoughts, feelings, and emotions without giving in to negative thought patterns.
Cognitive Enhancement Therapy (CET)
Cognitive enhancement therapy (CET) is commonly known as cognitive remediation. This type of therapy uses a combination of computer-based experiences, medications, and group therapy to help treat schizophrenia.
During the therapy sessions, the patient is taught how to recognize his triggers and social cues better. Schizophrenic patients have their own triggers, so it’s essential to be mindful of those differences. Furthermore, CET helps patients sharpen their memory and improve attention span.
The severe symptoms of schizophrenia bring untold suffering to those afflicted with it and their families. This isn’t surprising at all, given how they may feel withdrawn and isolated from their relationships and community because of the delusions and hallucinations that they experience.
Although schizophrenia is a lifelong disease, this isn’t to say that there’s no treatment. However, early diagnosis is critical so that a treatment plan can be initiated as soon as possible. An experienced mental health professional can provide expert advice on the appropriate therapy to be undertaken to relieve the symptoms and enable patients to have more control over their lives.