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.
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.
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.
As a guide, most people will require around 8-20 sessions of CBT over a 6 to 12 month period.
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.
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.
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.
All therapists on rscpp.co.uk 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.