Treating Schizophrenia with CBT

Your homework assignment for this week is to take some of your negative beliefs and treat them as hypotheses rather than facts. For example, run an experiment on the belief, “I am worthless.” Can you prove that you are worthless? Can you give factual data to support that you are worthless?

This is just one example of using Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) to address the obstacles presented by emotional disorders and mental illness. CBT uses the assumption that by challenging maladaptive beliefs, behavioral reactions will follow.

Defining CBT
Cognitive Behavior Therapy is defined by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) as, “a form of treatment that focuses on examining the relationships between thoughts, feelings and behaviors.” Learning to identify beliefs, and then explore how they negatively impact the lives of those suffering with schizophrenia has proven to be beneficial.

CBT got its name because of the importance it places on thinking e.g. cognition, along with behavioral techniques. The balance between the two elements creates a proven success rate in treating patients with a wide variety of emotional disorders and mental illness, including schizophrenia.

Brief History
Dr. Aaron Beck, world renowned psychiatrist and pioneer in the use of the cognitive approach, brought cognitive therapy to the forefront in the 1960s. Beck’s new form of therapy, although effective in practice, dwindled during the next few decades. Only after cognitive therapy had been firmly established as a treatment for depression and anxiety in the 1990s, did mental health professionals start to ask if CBT might work for schizophrenic patients.

Therapist, Client Relationship
CBT requires therapist and the client to work together as a team to identify and solve problems. When treating a schizophrenic patient, it is of utmost importance to let the patient develop his or her own alternatives to assumptions, preferably by looking for alternative explanations and coping strategies already present in the patient's mind.

CBT tends to have a shorter, more structured approach than other forms of therapy; this is convenient for clients, who have shown to be successful if they attend one session per week, for at least four months. During this time, the client and therapist develop new strategies, and explore a set of principles that the client can apply at any time. Consequently, the patient is given more control; and will presumably be able to utilize the techniques when confronting these negative thoughts on their own.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy empowers the client to take control of his or her own recovery, and the therapist, client relationship is more equal and business focused.

Today
Over the past two decades, the use of CBT for schizophrenia has been popularized in the United Kingdom and other European countries with positive results. Though the U.S. Has been slower to adopt CBT for schizophrenia treatment, a growing number of psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and psychiatric nurses have training in Cognitive Behavior Therapy in the United States.

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