Developing schizophrenia symptoms can be a scary and isolating experience. Aside from the distress that experiencing hallucinations, delusions, and other hallmarks of the condition can bring, it can also be quite isolating for people. The stigma surrounding this mental health condition is still very real and present, which can impact secondary mental health issues.
As soon as someone is diagnosed with schizophrenia, it is important for them to have access to a care team that will support them as they develop sustainable management strategies. Early intervention can make an enormous positive difference in a person’s overall mental health outcome.
Managing schizophrenia is a lifelong process, and supportive professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers, can have a major positive impact on the lives of individuals with schizophrenia. Psychologists, especially, work closely with people diagnosed with schizophrenia to help them live a full, rich life.
Medication—its Role and Limitations in Treating Schizophrenia
People with schizophrenia typically take antipsychotic medications to help control their symptoms. While these are a critical piece of the overall puzzle, they are part of a larger treatment plan. Individuals need to take their medication consistently, in addition to working with mental health professionals.
Medication has its limitations. Schizophrenia patients need to develop healthy coping skills and other ways of managing their condition in order to achieve sustainable symptom management. A psychiatrist is responsible for prescribing medications, while a psychologist’s role is generally to provide mental health support.
These mental health professionals work together to plan and carry out effective treatment plans for people with schizophrenia.
Psychologists Support Mental Health
A psychologist’s responsibility is to help people with schizophrenia manage the complex mental health concerns that are associated with the condition. They might start with a comprehensive assessment and evaluation in order to develop a treatment plan that is tailored to the patient’s individual needs.
Often, a psychologist will introduce Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as part of the treatment plan for patients with schizophrenia. CBT is a common form of treatment that can be very helpful for people with a variety of mental health conditions. It is a form of talk therapy that is ongoing for most individuals and can have significant long-term benefits.
How Counseling and Therapy Can Help
Individuals with schizophrenia frequently struggle with disorganized thinking and problems with social functioning. A psychologist, using the principles of CBT, can help those exhibiting schizophrenia symptoms to change their thought patterns and improve their mental health over time.
CBT is also a great way to help people develop coping strategies for when they encounter difficulties, whether due to their schizophrenia symptoms or something else entirely. These must be tailored to the individual’s specific struggles but can include:
- Strategies for coping with hallucinations, such as reality testing
- Monitoring and reframing unhelpful thoughts
- Identifying and managing triggers
- Social skill development
- Emotional regulation
- Lack of accessible healthcare in rural areas
Involving Families in the Treatment Process
Individuals with schizophrenia benefit significantly from strong family relationships. Sometimes, these relationships are strained due to the impact of the individual’s condition, causing a breakdown of trust and communication.
Lack of communication about mental health among family members is very common. This is especially common among male patients, who are often unconsciously (or consciously) taught to avoid seeking help for their mental health struggles.
A psychologist can help facilitate better communication if the individual wishes to get their family involved. Sometimes, having a knowledgeable third-party present can help everyone express themselves in a way that is productive and helps forge strong bonds. It can also help with breaking down the stigma surrounding schizophrenia that so often damages relationships.
This facilitation is especially important if there has been a substance abuse problem involved. Psychologists can help people with schizophrenia and addiction to recover, prevent relapse, and repair broken bonds with family members, which can be very healing and provide lots of hope for everyone involved.
Emphasizing the Importance of Hope and Resilience
A psychologist is an ally, during what can be a very scary and isolating time in someone’s life. In some cases, they can even play an instrumental role in preventing suicide. The powerful role that mental health professionals can play in the lives of individuals with schizophrenia can’t be overstated.
Psychologists can help individuals with schizophrenia to develop the hope and resilience they need to survive and thrive. They help people set realistic goals and achieve them, celebrating their success along the way.
By supporting people in their time of greatest need, psychologists can help people develop the toolbox they need to build the life they want.