One-fifth to one-third of all patients with schizophrenia do not respond adequately to drug treatment. Many patients who have been successfully treated with medications experience the "awakenings" phenomena, which are painful reactions that are manifested as inner emotions and the recognition of real losses. The effects of the disease, in any case, are profoundly emotional. As a result, psychological therapies can be helpful for many patients.
The use of cognitive-behavioral therapy is showing particular promise for improvement in both positive and negative symptoms in some patients, and the benefits may persist after treatment has stopped. This approach attempts to strengthen the patient's capacity for normal thinking, using mental exercises and self-observation. More evidence is showing that improving patients' ability to learn, remember, and pay attention allows them to better cope with ongoing positive symptoms and lead independent lives. Patients with schizophrenia are taught to critically analyze hallucinations and examine underlying beliefs in them.
Positive social interaction is extremely important for people with schizophrenia and may help reduce symptoms, including the number of delusional moments.
Family Support. It is deeply painful for anyone to interact with a loved one whose behavior is determined by a mysterious internal mechanism that has gone awry. Given support and direction, however, families or other caregivers can be very helpful in a number of ways:
Unfortunately, the family's own mental health is often threatened. As a result, caretakers also need help. Numerous studies have shown that patients with schizophrenia do worse in families who are too emotional, hostile, critical, or even overly involved. The problem is an emotional loop:
Studies indicate that once the patient receives appropriate treatment and support, the family's over-emotional state also recedes. Some studies have reported that when families receive help for themselves (group support or cognitive therapy) the relapse rates for the related patients are significantly lower than for patients whose families did not seek help. Still, only a small number of families of patients with schizophrenia receive the support and education needed not only for the patient but also for themselves.
Community Treatment Programs. Community treatment programs, in which a team of professional caregivers provides treatment and support for patients in their homes, is highly beneficial and cost effective (compared to frequent hospitalization). At this time, however, only a small percentage of patients participate in such programs.
Vocational Rehabilitation. Paid work may help the mental health of the patient. One study reported that after 1 year, 40% of workers with schizophrenia who were paid for their labor reported much improvement in all symptoms, and 50% reported much improvement in positive symptoms. Those who were not paid for their work did considerably less well. (The arts and crafts activities that are often used to enhance self-esteem in rehabilitation programs offer few real benefits to the patient.)
Unfortunately, at this time, few patients with schizophrenia are in programs that help them find and keep jobs, and up to 90% of patients with severe mental problems are unemployed.
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