Psychosocial Interventions for Schizophrenia

Instructor: Millicent Kelly

Millicent has been teaching at the university level since 2004. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and a Master's degree in Human Resources.

This lesson will focus on the mental health illness of schizophrenia. After defining this debilitating mental health condition, psychosocial interventions appropriate for schizophrenia will be discussed.

Hearing Voices

Jane's daughter Susan has not been acting like herself for months now. She appears distant and in her own world, and often makes references to things that just don't make sense. One morning Jane receives a call from Susan urging her to turn on the television. She tells Jane that police have surrounded her home and are ordering her to come outside. Jane quickly realizes no such thing is happening and tries to calm Susan down by letting her know she will be right over. Jane takes Susan to a mental health facility where, hours later, she is diagnosed as being schizophrenic.

What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a debilitating mental health condition that affects a person's way of processing information, feelings, and way of thinking. People who suffer from schizophrenia have a distorted view of reality and can exhibit any of the following symptoms:

  • Hallucinations - seeing things that are simply not there
  • Delusional thoughts - believing that someone is trying to control your brain, for example
  • Distorted thoughts - irrational thinking that doesn't make any sense
  • Unusual body movements - twitches and involuntary body movements that seem out of place
  • Reduced emotional expression - having a blank expression
  • Depression - excessive sadness or despair
  • Difficulty concentrating - inability to remain focused
  • Withdrawing - distancing oneself from others around them
  • Difficulty processing information to make an informed decision - seeming unable to understand simple concepts and use them to make decisions
  • Inability to commit new information to short-term memory - for instance, being unable to remember something such as someone's name

Risk Factors

Although the exact cause of schizophrenia remains unknown, mental health professionals believe that a combination of genetics, environmental causes, and brain functioning contributes to the development of this illness. Some risk factors that could predispose someone to developing schizophrenia include:

  • Family history of schizophrenia - someone with a family history of schizophrenia is predisposed to developing the condition themselves. However, no one gene in particular has thus far been identified as a predicting factor that someone will develop the disease.
  • Exposure to viruses
  • Poor maternal nutrition during pregnancy
  • Problems during the birthing process
  • Psychosocial factors such as stress, depression, anxiety, and a sense of hopelessness

Some Statistics

The following are some statistics associated with schizophrenia:

  • Schizophrenia is most often diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 25
  • Over 2.2 million people suffer from schizophrenia in the United States today
  • Schizophrenia occurs in similar rates in populations across the world, regardless of race, ethnicity, or cultural background
  • Schizophrenia is one of the 10 leading causes of disability claims world wide
  • Teens who have schizophrenia have a 50% higher risk rate of attempting suicide than those who do not

Psychosocial Interventions for Schizophrenia

Although there is no known cure for schizophrenia, it is highly treatable with medication and psychosocial interventions. Psychosocial interventions are interventions that are provided within the community for individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia, that aim at changing behavior and thought patterns through providing support.

The National Institute of Mental Health, an organization dedicated to the research and treatment of mental illness, has outlined four psychosocial treatment interventions that seem promising for individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia. They caution, however, that prior to considering the treatment options, it is important to consider and recognize the following:

  • Treatment progress for schizophrenia patients is slow and the approach used should be a long-term approach
  • Treatments should be individualized for each patient
  • A collaborative approach that involves the patient should be used when determining a treatment plan
  • Impairments in memory and functioning may appear that require treatment approaches to be adaptable

The four psychosocial interventions identified as promising by the National Institute of Mental Health for patients with schizophrenia include:

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