Overview of Treatment for Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness which impacts people’s ability to perceive the world around them in the same way that most people do. Most people with untreated schizophrenia hear voices or see things that aren’t there. They may also have false beliefs about the world that vary in content, but share the common characteristic of being untrue.

A person’s first experiences with schizophrenia are usually both extremely frustrating and scary. They may hear a voice or have a belief that passes through their mind that immediately takes hold and seems to be the person’s reality. When the symptoms later subside, it leaves a person feeling helpless and alone.

Most people who have schizophrenia do not experience a complete remission of symptoms. However, this disorder can be managed by a combination of psychosocial therapies and medications.

A psychiatrist, who attends to the biological or medical needs of the patient, directs the treatment of schizophrenia. Social workers and other mental health professionals devise and supervise a plan to address the socialization and educational components of the treatment. Difficulties in social skills are addressed by involvement in group treatment and planned group activities that include appropriate behavioral interaction and conversational topics. To be better able to cope with day-to-day living, the patient learns or re-learns more productive, acceptable behavior.

Other aspects of treatment deal with personal care, living skills, managing money and other practical matters. In many areas, people who have schizophrenia are able to receive assistance from local community mental health facilities and possibly qualify for a case manager. A case manager is someone who helps to ensure that the patient can get to appointments and group activities, monitors the progress of the patient and helps him apply for other available assistance.

The case manager may become a very important resource for the schizophrenic patient, especially for cases in which there is no family member available to become involved. The case manager may come to serve as the patient’s major advocate in dealing with landlords, social service agencies and utility companies. The case manager is trained to know local, state and federal programs that may be accessed to meet the particular needs of each client.

The specific programs available at community mental health facilities differ from one facility to another, but most offer some helpful programs. The importance of involvement in regular activities cannot be overemphasized. This part of the treatment addresses the social and interactional skills that are necessary for everyday life. When these services are provided in an environment that the patient views as safe and nonthreatening, the opportunity exists for the patient to develop greater trust in others. Such treatment can help the patient to re-integrate into society more comfortably.

While not all people with schizophrenia will require the services of a case manager, the vast majority are encouraged to follow a psychosocial treatment plan as well as the medical and drug plan supervised by their physician.