Most patients diagnosed with schizophrenia will be prescribed one or more medications for the rest of their life. Left untreated in any form, symptoms of the condition can disrupt personal relationships, make it difficult for the person to maintain employment and education, and interfere with their ability to care for themselves. In recent years, some have come to question whether medication is an appropriate first response to early signs of schizophrenia. Now, a new study finds that pairing the standard approach (medication) with a psychosocial intervention such as cognitive behavioral therapy results in greatly improved quality of life over medication alone.
The decision to find a therapist the individual is comfortable with is an important first step. But along with cognitive behavioral therapy, this most recent study also provided patients with three other psychosocial treatments: family intervention (teaching socializing and coping skills), psychoeducation (providing information on mental health to families and other caregivers), and skills training. Compared to people who received medication only, individuals who participated in these interventions were more likely to stay on their medication, stay in treatment, retain employment, and stay in school. They also “exhibited greater improvements in insight, social functioning, activities of daily living, and [in] four domains of quality of life.”
This study provides insight into creating a better quality of life not just for people diagnosed with schizophrenia, but also for anyone dealing with a mental health issue, no matter how small. The study not only illustrates therapy’s tangible value, but the emphasis on familial education and skills training can also be expanded to the public at large. The more we understand about mental health, what it means, and what it doesn’t mean, the better equipped we are to dissolve stigma and create psychologically literate households, schools, and communities. Understanding the benefit of therapy, for example, and promoting a therapy-positive environment make it easier for people to find a therapist when they need to do so.
© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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