Schizophrenia is a chronic mental health condition for which there is no known cure. However, several treatment methods are available, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which can be an effective way of managing symptoms.

Schizophrenia is a mental health disorder that affects a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. At times, a person with schizophrenia may appear to lose touch with reality. Aside from CBT, treatments for schizophrenia include antipsychotic medications and other behavioral skills training.

This article discusses the effectiveness of CBT for schizophrenia, looks at some alternative therapies, and provides advice on finding a therapist.

Therapist discusses CBT with a schizophrenia patient.Share on Pinterest
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Although CBT does not cure schizophrenia, it can benefit people greatly. CBT may be effective in managing the symptoms of schizophrenia, preventing hospitalization, and improving the overall quality of life.

In many cases, combining antipsychotic medication with CBT is more effective than just taking medication. CBT may also help treat symptoms that do not respond to pharmacological treatment.

According to a 2021 review, CBT is especially effective in treating the positive symptoms of schizophrenia, which are those that a person experiences in addition to reality. These symptoms appear after a person develops the condition and include delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized behavior.

The authors also note that CBT may be more effective for people who have flexible beliefs, good insight, and a shorter duration of illness.

The results of a 2018 review suggest that CBT may help reduce cognitive impairments, disorganized behavior, and depression. This treatment approach may also alleviate positive symptoms, negative symptoms, and social anxiety.

Researchers have found that CBT can also help improve quality of life by:

  • promoting regular exercise
  • encouraging community integration
  • reducing stigmatization
  • reducing harmful substance use
  • managing homelessness
  • improving relationships
  • reducing loneliness
  • decreasing violent behavior

CBT is a type of psychotherapy, or talk therapy, that involves working with a mental health professional to address thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. It may help people manage their fears, improve their interpersonal skills, and promote positive thought patterns over negative ones.

In this way, it can help people improve relationships, achieve goals, and solve problems, enhancing the overall quality of life.

Learn more about types of therapy.

CBT uses various techniques and self-help strategies to help a person with schizophrenia reduce and manage their symptoms. It encourages community integration and medication adherence.

During CBT sessions, a person will work with their therapist to set goals, learn how to deal with their symptoms, and change their self-defeating behaviors. The therapist will learn about a person’s symptoms so they can decide how best to treat them.

CBT helps people examine the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that relate to symptoms or situations. A person may learn to recognize, challenge, and change negative thoughts.

The therapist may use various techniques to help a client with schizophrenia. These include:

  • elaborating upon sounds
  • answering questions about sounds
  • normalizing auditory hallucinations
  • introducing coping activities, such as music or physical activity
  • cognitive restructuring
  • conversational skills practice

During a CBT session, a person and their therapist may discuss:

  • beliefs about voices
  • the types of situations that cause auditory hallucinations
  • avoidance behaviors
  • safety-seeking behaviors
  • thought patterns

Alternative psychotherapy options for schizophrenia include supportive psychotherapy and cognitive enhancement therapy (CET).

Supportive psychotherapy helps a person focus on the present moment so that they can effectively deal with their experiences.

CET involves group sessions and computer-based cognitive training to enhance brain function and help people gain confidence in their cognitive ability.

Psychosocial treatments help people treat symptoms and solve issues of daily life, which may relate to school, work, or relationships. Psychosocial treatments include behavioral skills training, supported employment, and cognitive remediation interventions.

Research suggests that combining antipsychotic medications with yoga therapy may be effective in treating positive and negative symptoms. Yoga therapy may also help prevent metabolic risk and weight gain, which often occur due to antipsychotic medications. In addition, it may alleviate psychiatric symptoms, reduce depression, and enhance the mental and physical quality of life.

People looking to find a therapist can seek advice from a primary care physician, nurse practitioner, or health insurance provider. They could also ask for a referral from their workplace, school, or religious organization.

As therapy for mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia, may be more effective if a person has a positive relationship with their therapist, it is important that they select someone with whom they feel comfortable.

A person can ask a potential therapist for details about their qualifications, treatment approach, and experience in treating schizophrenia. They can also ask about treatment duration, fees, and insurance coverage.

Online resources include:

CBT may help people reduce and manage symptoms of schizophrenia so that they can improve their daily functioning and enhance their overall quality of life.

People may use CBT to improve behaviors, thought patterns, and self-efficacy, which may have a positive effect on outcomes relating to relationships, work, and education.

Usually, people have CBT alongside antipsychotic medications, which are the first line of treatment for schizophrenia. People should work closely with their care team to track and monitor their treatment plan and make changes as necessary.