What Is Psychoeducation And Why Does It Matter?
By: William Drake
Updated November 10, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Melinda Santa
Psychiatrists and therapists often talk about psychoeducation, but what does it mean? Put simply, it's the way that mental health professionals teach people about their mental health conditions and disorders. People who receive a diagnosis of any kind want to learn about their condition, and mental disorders are no different.
Being diagnosed with a mental health condition can be challenging because it can bring up strong emotions. Most people want to know what their diagnosis means and how it will affect their life. Psychoeducation can answer these questions and many more.
Knowledge is Power
The best part of psychoeducation is the knowledge that you are not alone. Psychoeducation will show you that others have walked this path before you. It will help you understand what people with your condition usually experience and what kind of treatments are most effective. Read on to learn more about this crucial first step in your treatment.
What Is Psychoeducation?
Psychoeducation appeared over 100 years ago, but the term was popularized in 1980 by C.M. Anderson. Today, psychoeducation is a standard part of treatment for nearly every type of mental health disorder. What has this term come to mean? Why is it such an important part of treatment? The best way to learn more about it is to start with a simple and concise definition.
Psychoeducation provides people with mental health conditions information about the causes, symptoms, prognosis, and treatments of their diagnosed condition. If you engage in psychoeducation as a learner, you can find out what to expect, what you can do, and how to improve your condition.
Who Facilitates Psychoeducation?
Several different types of mental health professionals can provide psychoeducation. These include:
- Support group leaders
- Psychoeducation specialists
After receiving psychoeducation from any of these professionals, other people can assist in sharing information with people receiving treatment. They include:
- Group home workers
Who Can Benefit From Psychoeducation?
Anyone who is in treatment for a mental health condition can benefit from learning more about that issue. For example, if you have been diagnosed with depression, psychoeducation will help you learn about your condition and how to cope with it. Although people who have a severe condition may have trouble understanding the information that is being shared, even they can benefit from limited psychoeducation therapy.
Furthermore, family members and loved ones can also benefit from psychoeducation. They can learn to understand signs of mental illness, how to interact and handle situations, and how to be a more loving, understanding, and helpful parent, husband/wife, friend, sibling, etc.
Psychoeducation is now considered one avenue of treatment for mental health disorders. This type of education is not solely about passing along some information. It is also about learning skills for living with your condition, so it is a recognized part of the therapeutic process.
Goals Of Psychoeducation
What's the purpose of psychoeducation? And why would you want to bother with it anyway? When your therapist, psychiatrist, or other mental health team member engages you in psychoeducation, they typically have the following four goals in mind.
First, it's important to know the name of your diagnosed condition. It can be a big relief to know that others have suffered in similar ways and that treatments are available. No matter what you are going through, you are not alone.
Upon diagnosis, you might not know much about your condition. Even if you've heard of it, the information you received from the media or online may be confusing or unreliable. The first goal of psychoeducation is to teach you what the diagnosis really means and what it means for you specifically.
You'll learn several facts about your condition:
- Factors that contribute to the cause of the condition
- Symptoms that people with the condition may have
- Types of treatment
- What you can expect in the future (the prognosis)
Allowing You To Release Emotions
Another facet of psychoeducation is the opportunity to process feelings about the diagnosis. Because family members and the individual with the condition often receive psychoeducation in separate groups, you'll have a chance to express feelings freely.
As you release these uncomfortable emotions, you may reveal gaps in your understanding of the condition. At this point, psychoeducation can help you understand your condition better by providing relevant facts. As time goes by, you'll be able to come to terms with all aspects of the mental health condition.
Supporting Medication Treatments
People who have never been diagnosed with a mental disorder before are typically unfamiliar with psychiatric medications. Even patients who have been taking psychiatric medications for a long time need to learn more when they start taking something new.
In psychoeducation, you'll learn how and when to take your medication, what to do if you miss a dose, and what side effects you might experience. You might also learn how the medication works, how it will affect your body, and how it will help your mind. Furthermore, you may need to learn about any restrictions you might have when taking the medication. Common restrictions include not driving or operating heavy machinery, staying out of the sun, and avoiding certain foods. Not all medications have such restrictions, but it's important to know about them if they're relevant to you.
Teaching You To Help Yourself
With psychoeducation, you can learn a lot about helping yourself. Knowledge is power! You can learn how to recognize symptoms as soon as possible and when to report them. In addition, your mental health practitioner can teach you self-help skills to diminish or alleviate symptoms. They can also teach you about lifestyle changes, and they can give strategies to accomplish those changes. To that end, they might suggest books for you to read about your condition, websites to visit, or support groups to attend.
Learning Skills Through Psychoeducation
In addition to factual information, you can learn some very helpful skills through psychoeducation in individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy, or support groups. Generally, training is offered in four key areas, which are condition management, problem-solving, communications, and assertiveness.
Condition Management Training
You'll need to learn how to manage your condition. As mentioned before, you need to learn what symptoms to report. You also need to know if those symptoms signal an urgent or emergency situation or if they can be mentioned at a routine doctor's appointment.
When you have support from a mental health professional, it's easy to wait and work with them to solve your problems. However, once you learn techniques for solving problems on your own, you can function better between sessions. You will learn:
- To identify problems as they arise
- To consider who is affected by the problem
- To come up with options for solving the problem
- To assess the options
- To choose one of the options and act on it
- To evaluate your solution afterward to learn more about your condition
By learning to communicate more effectively, you can avoid frustration and unnecessary conflicts, work better with others, and let people know what's important to you. When you do these things, your life will be more manageable, and your needs will be met more consistently. Communications training as a part of psychoeducation aims to teach you a life skill that also improves your condition.
Being assertive is the most effective way to address your needs without causing yourself or others additional problems. Assertiveness is about being clear and straightforward when communicating needs and wants. Passivity, aggressiveness, and passive-aggressiveness are not helpful or effective tactics.
When someone is passive, they don't take part in getting what they need or want. They just accept whatever comes to them, whether it's good or bad. When people are aggressive, they push their agenda on others, whether they like it or not. When someone is passive-aggressive, they manipulate others to get what they want. None of these approaches are healthy ways to get what you want.
In assertiveness training, you will learn how to communicate your needs clearly without being aggressive, passive, or passive-aggressive. You'll learn to be clear and honest without being unfairly demanding.
Types of Psychoeducation
There are several different settings where you might experience psychoeducation. Individual psychoeducation usually happens during therapy sessions. The therapist might explain things personally, or they might give you homework assignments, so you can read books/pamphlets or view videos related to your condition. They also might ask you to talk about how you feel, so you can process your emotions about your condition. At some point, they may use role play or other techniques to give you training and practice in life skills.
Psychoeducation also takes place in condition-specific support groups.
Finally, families of people who have mental conditions may be asked to gather for psychoeducation sessions. They'll learn what the condition is and what it means for their loved one, how to help the person with the condition, and how to take care of their own needs at the same time. It can also be helpful to include caregivers if they're not part of the family.
How To Get The Most Benefit From Psychoeducation
More and more, teachers of every kind are beginning to see education as a team effort. When you approach psychoeducation the same way, you'll become an active part of a process that has the power to improve your life dramatically.
When you participate in psychoeducation actively and honestly, you'll get the most out of it. Whether you meet with an in-person or online counselor, be open to learning new information and practicing new skills. Also ask questions when you don't understand something, and consider how general information applies to you specifically. Overall, it's a simple process, but it works better when you're engaged.
If you want to learn more about your mental health condition, you can talk to a counselor right now. There are licensed therapists online at BetterHelp.com who can help you work through this process at a time and place most convenient for you. When a mental health condition complicates your life, psychoeducation gives you the tools to understand it better. Then you'll be able to manage it, so you can keep enjoying your life.
Below, you'll find a few reviews of BetterHelp counselors who have worked with people experiencing a range of life's challenges.
"Dr. Griffin has been by-far the best counselor that I have had the pleasure of working with. She easily and quickly learned ways to effectively communicate with me and utilized methods/tools that applied to my learning and listening styles. She has been patient, always; clear and concise when appropriate; and comforting when necessary. It is easy to get lost in the emotions of situations in counseling, and with Dr. Griffin, she has mastered staying on course to get to the roots, in order to guide me towards the most beneficial paths to healing."
"Karen is amazing. I've never done therapy before and was very skeptical of it. I also wasn't sure if I wanted to talk about my stresses, feelings and opening up about work and relationships. Karen has made it very easy to do that and very appreciative of the work she does. I've been working with Karen for 3 weeks and have seen big improvements and changes in my life. Very thankful for Karen and this platform. It is really amazing to talk to someone that listens and offers great advice, encouragement and doesn't judge. Thanks Karen!"
Psychoeducation can be an important part of learning to thrive with a mental health condition. It is useful for everyone involved, and it can be the first step to better understanding, treating, and coping with a mental illness. When you learn about your condition, you can learn to live with it. Take the first step today.
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