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Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) as a treatment for schizophrenia

by Sarah Graham
Friday 04 December 2015
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Schizophrenia is a psychotic condition, associated with a range of psychological symptoms, including delusions, hallucinations, hearing voices, and a blunting of emotions, which can leave you feeling cut off and extremely agitated. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective psychological treatments for managing the symptoms of schizophrenia. We asked RSCPP therapists to explain what CBT is, and how it can be used as a treatment for schizophrenia.


What is CBT and how does it work?

CBT identifies how your thoughts (cognitions) influence your feelings and behaviour. It challenges unhelpful thoughts, which maintain the problems you encounter. An objective of CBT is for you to experience healthier thoughts and feelings.

RSCPP Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Richard Snowdon


How can CBT be applied to treating schizophrenia?

CBT for schizophrenia is much like CBT for any other difficulty. It is about the therapist and you working together to help you work towards your goals. CBT for someone with schizophrenia may focus on helping you to cope with distressing symptoms, such as hearing voices or feeling paranoid. It may help you manage embarrassment or shame about your diagnosis and its impact on other aspects of your life, such as relationships, work and hobbies.

Registered Psychologist Ruth Ann Harpur-Lewis


How long does CBT for schizophrenia typically last?

As a guide, most people will require around 8-20 sessions of CBT over a 6 to 12 month period. 


Who is CBT suitable for?

CBT involves attending sessions, learning the rationale behind CBT, and applying it to your difficulties. CBT may also involve homework between sessions. It is suitable for anyone who is prepared to engage with the process. 

RSCPP Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Richard Snowdon


What outcome can you expect from CBT as a treatment for schizophrenia?

You may be concerned that therapy might destabilise your condition - this is particularly true for people who have experienced traumatic events. Your therapist should work at your pace, start therapy by finding ways you can feel safe, and help you make use of these throughout therapy. Usually people affected by schizophrenia find therapy to be helpful and a relief, rather than destabilising.

Registered Psychologist Ruth Ann Harpur-Lewis


How can I tell if a therapist is qualified to offer CBT for schizophrenia?

When seeking a therapist it is important that the therapist has an understanding of schizophrenia and experience working with other people with the diagnosis. If other people are actively involved in your care (e.g. a GP, a psychiatrist or a care coordinator) then it is often helpful for the therapist to keep in touch with these people so that everyone can work together to best support you.

Registered Psychologist Ruth Ann Harpur-Lewis

All therapists on are accredited, registered or chartered by a UK professional body. Therapists who offer Cognitive Behavioural Therapy will in addition have completed training in cognitive behavioural practice.

RSCPP Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Richard Snowdon

Finding support

If you are concerned about Schizophrenia then you may like to read about finding the right therapist for you. If this route is not appropriate for you, your GP can assess you and direct you towards support.

Find a Therapist working with Schizophrenia

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Updated 04 January 2016