What treatments are available?
If you think you need professional help, the first step is to visit your family doctor. If you are experiencing symptoms related to schizophrenia, your family doctor will probably refer you to psychiatric services for an assessment, treatment and care. All possible treatment options should be discussed with you, and your views and wishes should be taken into account.
Different treatments work for different people so you may need to try a few types of treatment before you find what works best for you. If you have difficulty getting the treatments you would like, you may find it helpful to use an advocate. An advocate is someone who helps you express your views and wishes, and helps you stand up for your rights.
Talking treatments provide a regular time and space for you to talk about your thoughts, feelings and behaviour with a trained professional. You can either seek treatment from your family doctor or from a private therapist. Private therapists should be appropriately trained and accredited.
Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT)
CBT is a talking treatment which aims to identify thoughts, feelings and behaviour that may be causing you difficulties, and to develop practical skills to manage these patterns of thinking or behaviour.
CBT for schizophrenia can help you to:
- Cope with symptoms of psychosis such as hearing voices or delusions
- Ease stress so that your symptoms do not get worse
- Manage any side effects from medication, such as weight gain
- Cope with other problems associated with schizophrenia, such as social anxiety and depression
CBT for psychosis is a bit more complex than CBT for other mental health problems, because it has to take into account the unusual beliefs and experiences people with schizophrenia might have.
Family intervention therapy
If you live with or have regular contact with your family, family intervention therapy can help. The aim of family intervention therapy is to help family members develop communication, problem solving, information sharing, and coping skills. The family will be able to have a say in how the treatment is implemented, for example the talking treatment may be implemented one-to-one or in group.
Other types of talking treatment
Some people find talking treatments other than CBT and family intervention therapy, such as counselling, supportive psychotherapy, and social skills training useful. There is not as much evidence to support these types of talking treatments for schizophrenia. However, your personal preference should always be taken into account, especially when the other talking treatments are not available in your area.
Doctors usually prescribe antipsychotic drugs (also known as neuroleptic drugs or major tranquilisers) to help with the ‘positive’ symptoms of schizophrenia.
Not everybody finds antipsychotic drugs helpful, and antipsychotic drugs can cause unpleasant side effects. If you find that the medication helps your symptoms, you may feel it is worth putting up with the side effects. If you find it is harder to cope with the side effects of the medication than your symptoms, you may consider coming off medication. However,
Different drugs may affect you in different ways, so you m need to try one or two types of medication before you find the one that suits you best.
How long will I need to take medication?
Some people get short-term help from medication, then come off it and remain well. Others may benefit from long-term treatment. If you do stay on medication long term, staying on the lowest effective dose of the drug may be the best way of dealing with symptoms whilst at the same time reducing side effects.
Arts therapies are a way of using creative arts – music, painting, dance, voice or drama – to express yourself in a therapeutic environment with a trained therapist. They can be helpful if you feel distanced from your feelings or find it hard to talk about your experiences, making it difficult to benefit from talking treatments.