More Therapy, Less Medication May Help Schizophrenia

Talk therapy session with teenage girlTalk therapy and lower doses of antipsychotic medications may be more effective at treating schizophrenia than the traditional approach of high-dose antipsychotics and minimal therapy, according to a seven-year National Institute of Mental Health study.

Schizophrenia affects about 2 million American adults. Symptoms vary, but schizophrenia generally produces hallucinations and delusions. Left untreated, it can interfere with a person’s ability to work, sustain relationships, or provide self-care.

The antipsychotic drugs traditionally used to treat schizophrenia can produce negative side effects, such as muscle spasms, changes in libido, blurred vision, and weight gain. As a result, noncompliance is high. One 2012 study found more than 70% of people with schizophrenia discontinue antipsychotics shortly after starting them.

New Approach Could Revolutionize Treatment

In 2014, Congress awarded $25 million in block grants to help states fund early-intervention mental health services. Thirty-two states have used the funds to offer blended treatments, such as medication and talk therapy. Looking at people with schizophrenia in these states, researchers were able to assess the effectiveness of various approaches to schizophrenia.

Researchers looked at people seeking assistance in the two years following a diagnosis. Providers at the facilities where these participants sought care did not only offer medication. They also provided therapy, assistance with daily decision-making, education about schizophrenia, and other services designed to help them better understand and control their condition. Doctors also significantly reduced the antipsychotic dosages participants received—cutting the recommended dose in half in many cases.

Participants in the new programs that emphasized therapy and a holistic treatment approach had better treatment outcomes during the two years after their diagnoses than participants who only received antipsychotic medications.

The study is the first to test such a program in the United States. It could ultimately revolutionize schizophrenia treatment.


  1. Antipsychotic medications. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  2. Carey, B. (2015, October 20). Talk therapy found to ease schizophrenia. Retrieved from
  3. Melville, N. A. (2012, November 10). Noncompliance with schizophrenia therapy usually persists. Retrieved from
  4. Mukherjee, S. (2015, October 20). Massive gov’t study promotes smaller drug doses, more talk therapy for schizophrenia. Retrieved from

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  • Andrea

    October 20th, 2015 at 11:18 AM

    What an amazing revelation, and a welcome one in my point of view! I think that it is always wonderful news when we look to solutions other than those that are only pharmaceutical based in nature. Hopefully there will be many who start moving more in this direction with this population of patients.

  • adam

    October 21st, 2015 at 11:57 AM

    could it be that we are finally beginning to see the light?
    that drugs are not always the only answer?

  • Kent

    October 22nd, 2015 at 5:46 PM

    Again I strongly feel that we have to stop affixing a one size fits all label to so many diseases that need treatment. What is going to work for one patient may do the exact opposite to another, and we must be willing to, be open to that and to understand that we may have to try several new things before finding something that is the right fit for one person. It sort of makes me mad, like doesn’t anyone care enough about my own unique situation to do some research and find out what I am going to best respond to?

  • Bryant

    October 24th, 2015 at 12:12 PM

    Great news and I kn ow that there are numerous people who could really benefit from this

  • esperanza w.

    June 6th, 2018 at 6:50 PM

    I have a son who was diagnosed with schizophrenia 14 years ago. We have experienced 3 unfortunate hospital stays and each one was a nightmare which I never ever want to go to again. I know that when an individual suffers from a mental illness he/she needs a tremendous amount of support; understanding; and forgiveness. I witnessed, during all three hospital stays, the horrible abuse of medications by medical professionals. Medical professionals simply pump medications into the patients without regard of how negatively they are affecting the person. During my son’s last hospital stay, I kept telling the Doctors that all he needed and could tolerate was Aibilify. They insisted in pumping him with other meds that made his condition worse. In one occasion, I was waiting to see my son during visitation hours when I realized that police and a number of medical personnel were battling with my son to force meds in him. My heart was literally ripped from me and there was nothing I could do. A doctor happen to be walking in to the unit while I was waiting in the lobby to be allowed to enter and she asked me who I was there to see – when I told her and explained to her that my son was being forced to take meds that were only making his condition worse, she said that I needed to accept the fact that my son son was not getting better but would only get worse. That female doctor should be ripped from her license; she is ignorant and only in the business to make pharmaceutical companies richer without regard to what they are doing to patients. My God is good and He gave me the strength and perseverance not to give in but to continue to fight for my son. I got him out of there and he is doing great. He takes his meds daily (we struggle on this at times) but that Doctor WAS WRONG! I encourage everyone who has a loved one with a mental illness to support them and get involved in their medicine regimen; no one knows better on how meds affect an individual than someone who is with them on a daily basis. Don’t give up on your loved one – fight for them please!!!!

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