Psychological treatment or ‘talking therapies’ help people adapt to living with schizophrenia.
An important aspect of psychological treatment is the person with schizophrenia developing a positive relationship based on trust and hope with their healthcare team. Having an open and honest relationship means everyone gets the full story, both patient and healthcare professionals.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a type of treatment that a mental health professional can use to help a person develop coping skills, improve thinking, and learn how to manage symptoms of schizophrenia. CBT can also help with treating symptoms of anxiety and depression, which can be common in people with schizophrenia.
Being able to talk to someone is an important part of the overall treatment process. Receiving general counselling can help, but the important thing is they can talk to someone if they are feeling down. This could be a doctor, relative or friend.
Psychosocial education can increase a person’s understanding of the symptoms of schizophrenia and treatment options. Social therapy can also encourage friends and family members to support the person with schizophrenia, as with understanding, comes a better idea of the full story of schizophrenia and its management.
Having support allows the person to feel less isolated and more understood. When friends and family are involved there is less chance of relapse, more likelihood of taking medication, a reduced incidence of schizophrenia symptoms and improved relationships.
Group activities or self-help groups can also help with social skills. The focus may vary, but activities can help with coping skills, provide opportunities for exercise, help develop relationships and facilitate information exchange with people going through the same experience. Talking to other people with schizophrenia can not only foster new friendships and social interaction, but may provide benefit by interacting with people going through a similar experience.
Quick guide to medications
Today’s doctors aim for “recovery” in mental health. In the case of schizophrenia, recovery means being able to live well with the condition, and to feel in control of the condition, its treatment and daily life. One of the key ways to achieve recovery goals is taking regular medication.
Different ways to take medication
Medication can be given as a daily tablet, solution or dissolving wafers, or as a long-acting injection.
Types of medicationsClose
The main types of medications for schizophrenia are called antipsychotics. They target the imbalance of brain chemicals to help restore the brain to normal function.
There are two types of antipsychotics: typical and atypical. Typical antipsychotics are usually older medications, while atypical antipsychotics are generally more recent. There are various brand-name products available: the names listed here are the “active ingredients”, which can be found in smaller type near the brand name on the pack.
Types of typical antipsychotics (older medications)
Daily tablets, solutions or wafers
Side effects of typical antipsychotics
These treatments may have side effects called extra-pyramidal symptoms. These include:
Types of atypical antipsychotics (newer medications)
Daily or twice-daily tablets, solutions or wafers
Side effects of atypical antipsychotics
These medications were called “atypical” due to their low tendency to cause some of the side effects associated with the older “typical” treatments (see list). Some of the side effects that may occur in people on atypical antipsychotics are:
The different types of atypical antipsychotics have varying effects on the body, so check with your doctor about the side effects that occur with the particular medication you have been prescribed.
To access information about these medicines, visit NPS Medicine wise and type in the name of the medication you would like further information about. Remember, this information does not take the place of talking to a healthcare professional. You will need their advice on medications and whether they are suitable for the person you’re caring for.
What should I do in a crisis?
Thinking about suicide does not mean the person you care about is a bad person, or weak, or flawed. It means that they feel like they are struggling to cope right now. If they feel suicidal, have mentioned suicide or are in a state where you’re concerned they may harm themselves, tell them to let someone know how they feel. Stay with them until they get professional help, even if you’re speaking to them over the phone.
- Contact a medical professional and tell them it is an emergency - call their doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist, counsellor or caseworker
- Go to their GP or hospital emergency room. Wait there with them until they see a doctor
- Dial 000 - the police or ambulance will be able to take them to hospital
You can also recommend they call Lifeline: 13 11 14 or The Suicide Callback Service: 1300 659 467 or Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800.
Who is involved in treatment care?
Besides your family member or friend’s psychiatrist, the mental health team will consist of some of the following people: GP, case manager, nurse, psychologist, social worker, and occupational therapist.
It’s a good idea to go to appointments prepared, so write down questions in advance and take a pen and paper to write down the answers given to you.
Where is treatment received?
The setting for the treatment of schizophrenia is usually determined by the nature of the illness.
Where possible, people with schizophrenia are treated in the community to reduce the distress and disruption to their lives.
Home care is where the patient is living at home - a schizophrenia treatment team can visit them as needed for support, and during crisis situations.
If the person is in recovery or remission, they can attend regular outpatient appointments for treatment. When a person is well, arrangements can be made for what will happen in the event of a relapse. These are called Advanced Care Directives.
Advance Care Directives are a good way to document treatment or care preferences in the event someone becomes so unwell they cannot make decisions at the time. This gives the person living with schizophrenia a sense of control and helps them to have a say in how they would like to be treated.
If someone is at risk of harming themself or others, or if they are extremely distressed by their schizophrenia symptoms, the best option may be a short stay in hospital for treatment and care. Sometimes this may be necessary, even though it may not be what they want at the time. Where possible, treatment should always occur in the least restrictive environment. It’s why hospitals are used only when absolutely necessary. Hospital inpatient care may be appropriate when your family member or friend needs a place away from major stressors, or when medications need major review or other treatments are needed that can only be delivered in hospital.
Going into hospital can be a distressing experience for both the patient and people who care about them. As a carer, you may be able to stay with your family member or friend while they are admitted and get settled in. Family or friends can visit and spend as much time with them as they wish, during their stay in hospital.
Involuntary hospitalisation is governed by the Mental Health Act in each State or Territory. Like orders to receive other forms of psychiatric treatment, an order for involuntary hospitalisation should be regularly reviewed, and you should be informed in writing of your rights.
Set a calendar reminder to discuss treatment options for schizophrenia
Set yourself a reminder to discuss treatment options, as well as patient and carer support programs with your family member or friend’s healthcare professional.