Cognitive Therapy Shown to Help Manage Schizophrenia Without Medication

Antipsychotic medication is prescribed for various mental illnesses. One of the most common conditions treated with antipsychotic medication is schizophrenia. Medication has been shown to be an effective approach to help individuals manage hallucinations, delusions,and other behaviors and symptoms associated with schizophrenia. Clients diagnosed with this mental health challenge often benefit further when they receive cognitive therapy (CT) in conjunction with medication. Unfortunately, antipsychotic medications have significant side effects and pose physical and physiological health risks. Additionally, some believe that medications used for schizophrenia actually exacerbate the illness. Because of these factors, adherence rates are extremely low.

People who choose to discontinue their antipsychotic medication, or those whose clinicians are opposed to that course of treatment, have uncertain outcomes. Although CT has been shown to work well in combination with medication, until now, few studies have examined if CT is a viable and effective treatment option when administered independent of pharmacologic treatment. To address this question, Anthony P. Morrison of the School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Manchester in the UK recently conducted a study that followed 20 participants who had not taken medication in the previous 6 months as they underwent CT.

All of the participants had a history of psychosis and received 9 months of CT and were assessed at baseline, end of treatment, and 15 months using the Positive and Negative Syndromes Scale (PANSS). Morrison found that all of the participants achieved reductions in hallucinations, delusions, and social impairment. Specifically, almost half reported a significant reduction in symptoms, and only two individuals enrolled in the study dropped out. Morrison believes that these results clearly demonstrate that CT can help individuals manage the symptoms of schizophrenia without the use antipsychotic medication. He added, “These findings, together with the extensive evidence base supporting CT’s effectiveness for treating comorbid disorders such as anxiety and depression, suggest that patients refusing antipsychotics should be offered CT.”

Morrison, A. P., Hutton, P., Wardle, M., Spencer, H., Barratt, S. (2012). Cognitive therapy for people with a schizophrenia spectrum diagnosis not taking antipsychotic medication: An exploratory trial. Psychological Medicine, 42.5, 1049-1056.

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  • Daniel Haszard

    Daniel Haszard

    June 8th, 2012 at 11:17 AM

    Zyprexa Diabetes connection conflict of interest.
    Eli Lilly paid billions in fines for the scam.
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    Eli Lilly Zyprexa can ruin your Pancreas and make you a type 2 diabetic in just a few months of use.I took it 1996-2000 and now am a diabetic for it.Best Wishes-Daniel Haszard

  • Beau


    June 8th, 2012 at 2:32 PM

    All this sounds great, but wouldn’t you want to make sure that this person who would not take anti psychotics could adhere to the rigors that can be posed by CT too? You wouldn’t just want to turn them loose with no support system that could ensure that he or she would actually stick to this program.

  • Cultivation Counseling

    Cultivation Counseling

    June 8th, 2012 at 2:45 PM

    I appreciate how strait forward your article is! So much of the time in psychology related blogs, it’s much more personal conjecture than hard facts.

    After seeing the effects of many medications on clients, I have a lot of respect for a cognitive approach.

  • parker Jewel

    parker Jewel

    June 8th, 2012 at 5:14 PM

    If many of these meds are counterproductive to what the providers are actually trying to achieve then a. why are they still being used? and b. why not give something like this a try? If the meds are doing that much harm, then this is going to be a welcome respite for some patients.

  • Mcleod


    June 9th, 2012 at 6:50 AM

    Schizophrenia can be a devastating diagnosis, and just like any other mental illness, sometimes it will take a lot of trial and error to discover exactly what will work for each individual patient. For some that may mean staying on medications. Let’s not forget that there are some people for whom these medications have been the only thing helping them to avoid disaster on a personal level. For others it may mean the integration of a different sort of therapy that they can use while still implementing the medications into that regimen. And still for others, coming off of the medication and maybe introducing a new med or nothing at all and trying therapy alone could be the answer. But no matter what works for the patient, then it is important to find that perfect cocktail and stick with it, or if you have a friend or family member with schizophrenia, helping them to make sure that they can stick with it. This is not something that will go away on its own, but with the right treatment it can be managed so that they may have the hope to live a better life than what they may not have had the chance to do in the past.

  • katherine snyder

    katherine snyder

    June 10th, 2012 at 8:31 AM

    I know that we have to be willing to give new things a try, but I hope not to the detriment of scizophrenia sufferers for whom their treatments are a lifeline to normalcy. I would hate for them to sacrifice the positive benefits of the medications that have helped them in the past for the promise of better treatment that may or may not be the best route for them. I just think that even if someone gives this cognitive therapy plan a try that they still work very closely with a medical professional who can monitor their situation and work with the therapist to form the most viable treatment plan for the patient.

  • d.nel


    June 11th, 2012 at 12:51 AM

    @parker Jewel:The answer to both your questions is the same and is very small:
    Big Pharma!

  • Ned


    June 11th, 2012 at 4:28 AM

    Well, CT has been effective for so many other conditions, has to be worth a try with schizophrenia too.

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