Can you see a therapist for schizophrenia?

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated January 5, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

According to 2022 statistics, the WHO reports that “Schizophrenia affects approximately 24 million people or 1 in 300 people (0.32%) worldwide.” Although its symptoms are unique, and it isn’t as common as many other mental health disorders, schizophrenia can be managed by working with a therapist.

Some of the most common examples of schizophrenia symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, chaotic speech/thoughts, and an otherwise notable imbalance in one's perceptions, thoughts, memory, and personality. An assessment of "do I have schizophrenia?" may be necessary if you are exhibiting one or more of the symptoms listed below. Individuals who have schizophrenia may be at risk for a diverse range of additional symptoms of illness, such as brain tissue loss, diabetes, and abnormalities within the immune system. Individuals living with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder generally need comprehensive care that includes schizophrenia therapy in order to control their symptoms and reduce their chance of developing these additional health concerns.
Schizophrenia in teens and young adults is difficult to diagnose. In many cases, schizophrenia and related disorders begins between the ages of 15 to 25. While delusions, hallucinations, and other symptoms may not manifest in the earliest stages of the disorder, there are other signs including but not limited to emotional detachment, mood swings, suicidal thoughts/actions, lack of self-care, purposeful isolation from others, etc.

Even in cases when multiple signs of schizophrenia are apparent, not everyone around the individual may realize that schizophrenia may be an issue. In some cases, the individual may simply be told to "get over it" or otherwise pull themselves together by people who don’t understand the severity of the issue. This can have damaging consequences when the individual with schizophrenia doesn’t receive a diagnosis, medication and treatment because they don’t understand their condition is a serious mental health issue. 

Schizophrenia is manageable with professional help

What causes schizophrenia?

While a definitive cause has not yet been identified or determined, there are some factors that specialists believe can cause, contribute to, or worsen one's susceptibility to schizophrenia. Although scientists aren’t sure exactly how genetics plays a role in schizophrenia, it is one of the most prominent factors that experts believe causes the condition. 

There also exists a link between issues with pregnancy/childbirth and the development of schizophrenia. Children who are born prematurely or who do not get full amounts of oxygen to their brains can sometimes develop schizophrenia. It's important to note that issues during pregnancy or childbirth do not automatically guarantee that a baby will develop schizophrenia later in life. 

Neurotransmitters, stress, use of drugs/alcohol, and dopamine imbalance also contribute notable ties to schizophrenia or the triggering of schizophrenic symptoms and side effects.

Treating schizophrenia

Treating schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, like schizoaffective disorder, requires antipsychotic drugs prescribed by a psychiatrist.

Antipsychotic medications (such as first-generation antipsychotics or atypical antipsychotics) can help control the symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hallucinations, disorganized thinking, and delusions. They can be an important part of schizophrenia treatment for many, especially when used in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy techniques.

While therapy can be a helpful part of schizophrenia treatment, antipsychotic medication is essential for proper treatment for schizophrenia, and it should never be considered optional for those with a schizophrenia diagnosis.
However, when a person living with schizophrenia commits to taking their medications to manage their symptoms, they will likely benefit from attending therapy for schizophrenia in conjunction with a medication regimen. For example, including psychosocial therapy in a treatment plan can help people with schizophrenia manage the cognitive and behavioral difficulties that often accompany the disorder, lessen the likelihood of relapse, and reduce the severity of symptoms.  
While there are a variety of therapies that could potentially benefit people with schizophrenia (such as electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT), cognitive behavioral therapy has been proven to yield the best results for this mental disorder. Cognitive behavioral therapy largely centers around the betterment of mental health by working with a patient's thoughts, emotions, habits, and coping mechanisms. 

The advice learned here is particularly helpful when working with people living with schizophrenia because it allows them to cope with symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations as well as deal with the symptoms of depression that can exist alongside them. Additional benefits of working with a cognitive behavioral therapist include general improvements in the patient's quality of life and productive goal setting.

According to the National Alliance On Mental Illness, psychosocial therapy, which is psychotherapy combined with social and vocational training, can also be an excellent option for those experiencing many mental health conditions—such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and more. The ideas that the therapist teaches here can help people with schizophrenia integrate into society.

In addition to individual counseling, most treatment plans for those with schizophrenia include regular family therapy. With the de-institutionalization of cases of schizophrenia in the US, the role of the caregiver often falls to the family. As in any caregiving situation, this can cause stress on the family unit. Because of its nature, schizophrenia can particularly impact relationships, and family counseling is essential to assist families in coping with the emotional and occupational challenges that come with caring for someone with the disorder.

In addition to providing much-needed support to the family, it helps the family cope with and manage their behaviors toward the schizophrenic patient, which can have a large impact on the patient’s recovery and instances of relapse. A 2015 publication on the role of family counseling in managing schizophrenia reports that “Negative attitudes toward the patient, such as high levels of expressed emotion (EE) involving criticism, over-involvement, and intrusiveness, and the attribution of symptoms to the patient’s willpower have been shown to be related to worse prognosis of the illness.” 

Essential things to know about schizophrenia

There are many existing misconceptions regarding this mental health issue and all that it entails. This could partially be due to the dramatic and potentially upsetting symptoms that can sometimes come with it, but the fact that schizophrenia isn’t a common disorder may contribute, too. With so few cases, there are few people out there who know someone personally with schizophrenia. This leads to a measure of ignorance in the general population about the nature of the disorder. 

Schizophrenic people are not inherently violent
In various forms of media, individuals who have schizophrenia are sometimes depicted as manic, dangerous, violent, and even psychopathic. These sensationalized depictions of mental health conditions like schizophrenia often do a disservice to real individuals who deal with this issue. Contrary to what you see on TV, a person with schizophrenia can take medicine, participate in various forms of therapy, and live a productive life. With the right treatment, they can interact socially with others, work, and maintain healthy relationships. 
Schizophrenia and dissociative identity disorder are not the same

The idea that schizophrenia and dissociative identity disorder (sometimes known as multiple personality disorder) are the same is incorrect. Although both may show symptoms of hallucination and delusions, they also have symptoms that are unique to the disorder. Also, it is widely accepted that schizophrenia is an organic disorder with roots in genetics. DID is thought to develop as a form of coping for people with exposure to serious trauma such as physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, exposure to war, natural disasters, etc.


To cope with (or help someone else cope with) the difficult symptoms of schizophrenia, it is helpful to first understand it. Therapy is impactful in this not only for the individual but for the family as well. If you’re a caregiver for someone with schizophrenia, family therapy can make a large difference in your quality of life and the quality of care you can give others.   

For people with psychological disorders of any kind, a strong support system is essential. This may include interaction with family, friends, community, and support groups. But therapy is perhaps the most important tool for helping people with mental illnesses. A skilled mental health professional can work with patients to develop a treatment plan, build coping skills the individual can carry into daily life, and provide additional resources for treatment, such as use of medications and physical treatments if necessary. 

If you feel it’s time to begin your journey to healing through therapeutic intervention, but barriers such as time constraints, limited resources, or affordability are keeping you from getting help, online therapy is an excellent solution. 

BetterHelp connects individuals with licensed, accredited therapists experienced in a wide range of methods of treatment, including individual, group, and family therapy. With BetterHelp, you can speak to a therapist anytime, anywhere with an internet connection to get the help you need. There’s no need to commute to and from an office, and help is available when you need it, 24/7. 

Additionally, research has shown that online therapy such as that provided by BetterHelp is just as effective as most traditional in-person therapy, reaching the same level of positive results in a comparable amount of time.

There are many common misconceptions about this mental illness that detract from the importance of understanding and support. It is a highly treatable disease, and with medication and therapy, those with schizophrenia can lead balanced, productive lives. 

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