Now, however, an extensive meta analytic study conducted by a team of international researchers has found the therapy offers little benefit for those with the disorder.
Schizophrenia — one of the most severe but also rarest mental health disorders — occurs in about 1 in 100 people. It usually begins in late adolescence, characterized by symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, cognitive impairment, social withdrawal, self-neglect and loss of motivation and initiative.
“This study is a new meta-analysis of CBT in the treatment of schizophrenia. It is the most comprehensive study of its effect on symptoms ever undertaken — covering 50 randomized controlled trials published over the last 20 years,” said Dr. Keith Laws, professor of cognitive neuropsychology at the University of Hertfordshire.
“We even translated papers from foreign languages, such as Chinese — so our study covers everything worthy of examination.”
Currently, many leading mental health groups that offer treatment guidelines have stated that CBT is effective for schizophrenia, and they recommend it for all people with the disorder.
The study, however, found that CBT had only minimal therapeutic effect on schizophrenic symptoms. This included the key “positive” symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations, which CBT was originally developed to target.
“Even this small effect disappeared when only studies where the assessors were blind were taken into account,” said Laws.
Blind testing, in which the researchers who make the assessments don’t know which group of patients had received the therapy or not, is commonly used in trials of medical treatment but has not always been employed in studies of CBT for schizophrenia.
These findings raise the question of whether CBT should continue to be used in clinical practice.
“With this evidence, the current government policy which mandates this treatment for all patients with schizophrenia in England and Wales needs to be reconsidered,” said Laws.
Source: British Journal of Psychiatry