By Susan Chow, PhD, ELS
There are a number of interventions that can help individuals with schizophrenia to cope with the symptoms and maintain a fulfilling life. These include medications, psychotherapy and an adequate support network to help patients to handle the daily struggles of living with schizophrenia.
The first-line medication option for schizophrenia is an atypical antipsychotic, such as risperidone or olanzapine. These drugs are recommended as the initial drug choice as they have a favourable efficacy profile and are associated with fewer side effects than other medication options.
It is worth noting that antipsychotic medications are particularly helpful in the control of positive symptoms, such as the hallucinations that may present during an acute psychotic episode. However, they are less useful in the management of negative symptoms, such as disorganization of thought and behavior.
Psychotherapy is usually recommended in addition to a sound medication management plan, to aid patients in coping with everyday lifestyle activities. This helps to improve adherence to the medications and the patient’s integration into society with supported learning of social and occupational skills.
Individuals with schizophrenia are more likely to be affected by unemployment and have difficulty being accepted by the community, particularly if they do not have a strong social support network. This makes increases the importance of psychotherapy, as patients are able to work through any issues in a safe environment and have helping reaching small goals that they set with their therapist.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is sometimes used as an intervention for individuals with schizophrenia as it can help to improve symptoms and increase self-confidence.
This involves a series of one-on-one therapy sessions to help patients to establish links between their thoughts, feelings and actions, and how they affect their symptoms. It also encourages patients to reconsider their lifestyle and monitor their thoughts and action to help reduce the recurrence of symptoms. In practice, it is designed to offer practical solutions that can aid patients to reduce stress and improve overall function.
Family intervention involves a series of therapy sessions with the individual with schizophrenia and the family and friends involved in the life of the patient. Evidence has shown that a strong support network is particularly beneficial to help people to cope with symptoms of schizophrenia, so family intervention uses this knowledge to its advantage.
This usually helps patients to improve their rapport and engagement in the family, which then also leads to positive benefits of a stronger support group in surpassing challenges that present as a result of living with the condition.
In addition to helping the patient with schizophrenia, family intervention takes the mental health of all family members and carers into account and helps them to manage the stress and negative outcomes of caring for a loved one.
This is only usually considered as a final option of therapy when other interventions have proven to be futile. It is more effective for patients with symptoms of catatonia and is not widely used in patients with schizophrenia due to the severe side effects associated with the therapy.
Last Updated: Aug 24, 2015