What Is Psychoeducation And Why Does It Matter?

By Julia Thomas

Updated January 02, 2019

Reviewer Melinda Santa

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Mental health therapists and psychiatrists often talk about psychoeducation, but what does it mean? It's a kind of teaching, obviously, but what kind? This type of education is focused on teaching people about their mental health conditions and disorders.

Most people who receive a diagnosis of any kind are curious to know more about their condition. Mental disorders are no different. Of course, there's a lot you can learn online, but there's a lot of misinformation there, too. People who have mental health issues often have the added challenge of dealing with strong emotions about their condition and what it means for them. Their mental condition may also cloud Their thinking. Psychoeducation addresses all these issues, so understanding what it is and why it's so valuable can be extremely helpful when you're faced with a mental disorder.

What Is Psychoeducation?

In 1911, John Donley first suggested the concept of psychoeducation, but he didn't use that term. The word 'psychoeducation' came up later, when Brian Tomlinson used it in the title of a book he wrote. The term never really took off until C.M. Anderson made it popular in 1980 after using psychoeducation to help patients with schizophrenia.

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Today, psychoeducation is a standard part of treatment for nearly every type of mental health disorder. What has this term come to mean, and 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 Definition

Psychoeducation is a means of providing people being treated for mental conditions with information about the causes, symptoms, prognosis, and treatments of their diagnosed condition. If you engage in psychoeducation as a learner, you can find out not only what to expect, but what you can do or avoid to improve your condition.

Who Facilitates Psychoeducation?

Several different types of mental health professionals can provide psychoeducation. These include:

  • Therapists
  • Psychiatrists
  • Support Group Leaders
  • Psychoeducation Specialists

After receiving psychoeducation from any of these professionals, other people can assist in teaching this information to the person receiving treatment. They include:

  • Parents
  • Teachers
  • Caregivers
  • Group home workers

Who Can Benefit From Psychoeducation?

Anyone who is in treatment for a mental health issue can benefit from learning more about that issue. For example, if you have been diagnosed with depression, you can learn about your condition and how to cope with it in ways that have been proven effective. Although people who are having a severe episode of a mental condition may have trouble taking in everything that's being offered them, even they can benefit from some limited psychoeducation therapy.

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Is Psychoeducation A Form Of Therapy?

Psychoeducation is now considered one avenue of treatment for mental health disorders. This type of education isn't just about passing along some information, although that is a part of it. It is also about learning skills for living with your condition. It is a recognized part of the therapeutic process.

Goals Of Psychoeducation

So, what's the purpose of psychoeducation, anyway? Why would you want to bother with it? When your therapist, psychiatrist, or other mental health team member engages you in psychoeducation, they typically have the following four goals in mind.

Giving Information

The first extremely important bit of information you'll get is the name of your diagnosed condition. For many, just knowing others have suffered in similar ways and that treatments are available can be a big relief even before you learn anything else. That isn't all the information you need to do well, though, and it's just the beginning of your psychoeducation.

When you first find out you have a mental health condition, you might not know much about it. Even if you've heard of the condition, the information you've gotten from the media or online may be confusing or unreliable. That's why the first goal of psychoeducation after telling you the name of your condition is to teach you what the name means in general and what it means for you specifically.

You learn several facts about your condition:

  • Factors that contribute to the cause of the condition
    • Genetic
    • Biological
    • Environmental
  • 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 it gives you to express your feelings about your condition. Because family members and the individual with the condition often get psychoeducation in separate groups, you can get a chance to express feelings you might not want to talk about with each other.

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As you release these uncomfortable emotions, you may reveal gaps in your understanding of the condition and what it means for you and your family. At this point, the psychoeducation can loop back to explaining facts that can help you understand better.

Supporting Medication Treatments

Psychiatric medications are typically unfamiliar to people who have never been diagnosed with a mental disorder before. Even patients who have been taking psychiatric medications for a long time need to learn more when they begin a new medication.

In psychoeducation about medications, you learn how to take it, what to do if you miss a dose, what side effects to be aware of, and whether it's a pain medication or a medication you need to take every day. You might also learn how the medication works and how it will affect your body and mind. Other important information to learn is what types of restrictions you might have when taking the medication. Common restrictions include: not driving or operating heavy machinery until your body is used to the medication, staying out of the sun, avoiding certain foods. Not all medications have such restrictions, but these warnings are important to know if they do.

Teaching You To Help Yourself

You can learn a lot about helping yourself through psychoeducation. You can learn how to recognize symptoms as soon as possible and when to report them. Your mental health practitioner can teach you about lifestyle changes that might help you and how to accomplish those changes. They can teach you skills you can use on your own to diminish or alleviate symptoms. 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. The four types of skills that are taught most often are condition management training, problem-solving training, communications training, and assertiveness training.

Condition Management Training

One thing you need to learn is how to manage your condition. As mentioned before, you need to learn what symptoms to report. You also need to know whether those symptoms signal an urgent or emergency situation or can be mentioned at a routine appointment.

Problem-Solving Training

When you have a mental health professional to rely on, it's easy to leave your problems for them to help you solve. However, once you learn techniques for solving problems on your own, you can function better between sessions. You'll 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.

Communications Training

By learning to communicate 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, you can have a much more manageable life and meet your needs more consistently. Communications training as a part of psychoeducation has the goal of teaching you a life skill that can improve your condition as well.

Assertiveness Training

Being assertive is the most effective way to address your needs without causing yourself and others additional problems. When you're passive, you don't take part in getting what you need or want. You just take whatever comes to you, good or bad. When you're aggressive, you push your agenda on others, whether they like it or not. When you're passive-aggressive, you use a dishonest way of getting what you want by manipulating others with your words. In assertiveness training, you learn how to communicate your needs clearly without being aggressive, passive, or passive-aggressive. You learn to be clear and honest without being unfairly demanding.

Types of Psychoeducation

There are several different settings where psychoeducation is presented. Individual psychoeducation usually happens during therapy sessions. The therapist might explain things personally, give homework assignments for reading books, pamphlets, or viewing videos related to your condition. They might ask you to talk about how you feel so that you can release your emotions about your condition as well. They might also use role-playing or other techniques to give you training and practice in life skills.

Psychoeducation often takes place in condition-specific support groups. Some group therapy groups are made up of people with different types of mental conditions who are currently in treatment.

Families of people who have mental conditions may be asked to gather for psychoeducation sessions. They 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.

People who take care of the person with the condition can also benefit from psychoeducation. These people may include parents and other caregivers, teachers, and others.

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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 can be an active part of this process that has the power to improve your life dramatically. You can get the most from this experience when you participate in it actively and honestly. Be open to learning new information and practicing new skills. Ask questions when you don't understand something. Consider how general information applies to you specifically.

If you or a family member want to learn more about a mental condition you're dealing with, you can talk to a counselor right now, online at BetterHelp.com. When a mental condition complicates your life, psychoeducation gives you the tools you need to understand it better.

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