Cognitive Behavioral Therapy For Schizophrenia

By Samantha Dewitt|Updated June 6, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Lauren Guilbeault, LMHC

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Schizophrenia

Have you or someone that you love been diagnosed with schizophrenia? If that’s the case, it's extremely important that you get the appropriate treatment to help you manage symptoms and live a healthy, functional life. As with any mental health disorder, there are several different ways that schizophrenia can affect you and your life. Getting professional help as soon as possible is going to help you get back to living the type of life that you want.

What Is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a serious mental health disorder that interferes with a person’s ability to think, manage their emotions, and interpret their reality. People with schizophrenia might develop thoughts that are based in fantasy or delusion. They could experience delusions, hallucinations, and difficulty with concentration and even motivation.

 Symptoms of schizophrenia can include:

  • Delusions: a person with schizophrenia may have false beliefs that have no foundation in reality.
  • Hallucinations: these can be visual and/or auditory, and the person experiencing them cannot tell that these hallucinations are not real.
  • Abnormal motor behavior: a person with schizophrenia may find it difficult to start or accomplish tasks. Often, they may resist instructions, not respond to requests, or engage in excessive movement.
  • Disorganized speech: being able to communicate can be impaired, resulting in speech that is filled with meaningless words.
  • Other: these may include not taking care of personal hygiene, lacking facial expressions when talking, speaking in a monotone voice, withdrawing from social situations, and being unable to experience pleasure.

Experiencing a combination of these symptoms could be a warning sign that you or someone you may know may be experiencing schizophrenia, and should seek the advice of a health care provider immediately.

Diagnosing Schizophrenia

Because schizophrenia is a serious mental health condition, diagnosis is typically achieved after completing a series of tests and evaluations. A typical first step in diagnosing schizophrenia is conducting a full physical examination to rule out other health problems.

Then, the method of diagnosis will turn toward psychiatric needs. The doctor will talk with the patient about their thoughts and feelings. They'll talk about hallucinations, delusions, substance misuse, moods, etc. All of these things will help the doctor to narrow down the potential cause of the symptoms and come closer to making a diagnosis. At that point, the final diagnosis may be made, and schizophrenia treatment will begin.

Various Kinds of Schizophrenia

Decades ago, doctors used to categorize schizophrenia into five different subtypes: residual, paranoid, undifferentiated, disorganized, and catatonic. These categories of schizophrenia no longer exist, thanks to recent studies and guidelines by the American Psychiatric Association.

How Do These Types Differ?

Not many people are aware that there is a schizophrenia spectrum, which means that not everyone who lives with schizophrenia has exactly the same symptoms. The schizophrenia spectrum consists of similar disorders that are characterized by how long symptoms have been occurring for. Through the collection of a person’s health information, they could be diagnosed with schizophreniform (those who have psychotic symptoms for more than a month, but less than six months) or schizoaffective disorder (psychotic symptoms occur along with depression or bipolar disorder).

Getting Treatment

The good thing is that while schizophrenia is a lifelong condition, several treatments have been shown to work very well. Those who live with this disorder absolutely can go on to live full lives. The most important thing is to get the type of treatment that they need to regulate their behavior, moods, and delusions. This generally requires a combination of medications and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Types Of Treatment for Schizophrenia

Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention topics that include prescription medication, abuse of medication, and addiction. The information found in the article is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have.

The most common type of treatment is also one of the most popular: cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Cognitive behavioral therapy for schizophrenia can help the patient because it creates a safe environment. According to the American Psychiatric Association, CBT focuses on changing the way a person thinks in order to start the road to recovery. Because it's a type of talk therapy, the focus isn't on challenging the delusions that the patient has, but on creating new ways to help them cope with the struggles they are facing. It also focuses on developing rational thoughts rather than trying to challenge any of the other thoughts or feelings. Therefore, it tends to have a higher success rate for those who are living with this disorder.

The support of family members can help a person living with schizophrenia to improve in their therapy sessions, being the support that they need to get through these challenges. Family therapy sessions can also teach family members how to cope with the symptoms of schizophrenia so that they know how to properly approach each situation when someone is experiencing a schizophrenic episode.

Another option, called compliance therapy, is a very short term alternative, and it's generally used only when the patient has first been diagnosed. This would occur in the stage where the patient is first learning to take their medications and is first getting used to a schedule. This usually happens also when a patient is first being released from hospitalization. Compliance therapy focuses on getting the patient to follow the rules regarding their medication use and to make sure that they are taking the medications at all of the times they are supposed to.

Cognitive remediation therapy, also known as CRT, can also be used to treat severe mental health disorders. It is considered to be one of the more successful methods of therapy by the National Institute of Mental Health. The focus of CRT is to improve cognitive processes, such as social cognition, executive function, attention and memory, so that persons living with schizophrenia can improve their performance in everyday life. Computer programs are used in the teaching process and can vary in both length and complexity, depending on the requirements of the patient.

Antipsychotic medications are also a line of treatment for individuals with schizophrenia. The purpose of antipsychotic drugs is to ease and/or eliminate the delusions and hallucinations that a person may be experiencing. They can come in a liquid, pill, or injection form, and sometimes may have to be taken for the rest of a person’s life, even if they get better through therapy.

Side Effects of Antipsychotic Drugs

Like with all medications that deal with the chemistry of the brain, there can be some side effects with antipsychotic drugs and mental health medications, in general. Discussing your health information with a therapist or medical professional beforehand will assist in arriving at a diagnosis of schizophrenia and which medication will work best in its treatment.

The most common side effects include drowsiness, dizziness, blurred vision. Rarely, antipsychotic medications can also cause seizures, low white blood cell count, constipation and nausea, and low blood pressure. Older generation antipsychotics use a hormone called prolactin that result in lower sex drive, affected mood, and the enlargement of breast tissue in men and women. Newer generation antipsychotics are more prone to causing weight gain, as well as increasing cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

If you’d like to learn more about the side effects of these medications, there is plenty of information at the American Psychiatric Association website.

Electroconvulsive Therapy

This was once called shock therapy, and the term can bring about frightening imagery that has become popular in movies. However, electroconvulsive therapy is no longer the painful treatment it was once depicted to be. Also known as ECT, the National Institute of Mental Health has considered it one of the fastest and most effective ways to relieve symptoms of schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder. The process involves a general anesthetic being administered in order to relax all of the muscles in the body. Then electrodes are placed on the scalp and a finely-controlled electric current is administered for a short period of time. These sessions take place several times a week for a period of two to four weeks. Some common side effects of ECT include headaches, memory loss, muscles aches, and upset stomach.

Conclusion

If you are struggling with schizophrenia, the best thing you can do is get help right away. A mental health professional will be able to help you understand what you're experiencing, and they'll be able to work with you to find the right mental health plan, just by sharing some of your health information. BetterHelp is one place where you can get the therapist that you're looking for and where you can find all of the care that you need. This completely online service makes sure that you're going to be comfortable with the person you're working with and also makes sure that you can get on with living as normal of a life as possible.

Helpful mental health resources delivered to your inbox
For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns
Speak with a Licensed Therapist
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.