Family members of schizophrenia patients should receive psychoeducation (education focused on a mental health disorder) as soon as possible after the diagnosis, according to new findings published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.
The analysis, based on the results of 44 studies conducted over the past three decades, found that early psychoeducation given to family members successfully increased their knowledge of schizophrenia and equipped them with the skills to be better caregivers.
Most of the studies reviewed were conducted face-to-face, but the researchers note the increasing use of online delivery formats.
Family members of patients with first-episode psychosis—who were recruited in the early stages of their involvement with healthcare services—reported that they would have liked psychoeducation provided even earlier than it was.
Family members also preferred to receive psychoeducation in a group setting that allowed the sharing of common experiences, offered peer support, and the help of mental health professionals who engaged well with family caregivers.
The analysis found that psychoeducation interventions were more effective when offered outside of office hours for working family members and when sessions were repeated two or more times to offer flexible scheduling. Also, adding ethnic-cultural considerations into the program content was also found to be important to family member satisfaction.
The researchers note that the duration of psychoeducational programs varied across the studies, ranging from 6 to 42 hours across 4 to 52 weeks. Therefore, it was difficult to identify the most successful duration period, although the meeting times of successful interventions was estimated to be 16 to 18 hours over 8 to 24 weeks.
Booster sessions may also be beneficial, but their use was underexplored in the studies reviewed, as was the use of between-session practice of skills through reading, quiz, and homework tasks.
Researchers Jacqueline Sin and Ian Norman, Ph.D., from King’s College London in the UK, note that psychoeducation was less effective for deeply rooted issues such as the family members’ mental disorders, their burden or expressed emotion (a measure of how often the family members of a mental health patient spontaneously talk about him or her).
“Given ever-increasing demands on integrating evolving technologies to enhance accessibility and flexibility of evidence-based interventions, further development to optimize online design and delivery of psychoeducational interventions for people with schizophrenia and their families would appear to be a worthwhile endeavor,” they wrote.
Source: Journal of Clinical Psychiatry