Schizophrenia is a difficult mental illness that affects about one percent of the population in the United States. The condition is chronic, severe, and disabling often preventing an individual from living independently.
Approximately 60 percent of those suffering from this condition live with a relative. Despite the fact that family interventions have shown to significantly improve outcomes for individuals with schizophrenia, only about seven percent of patients with this illness receive any family therapy.
To address this void, a new culturally-informed treatment strategy focused on caregivers of people with schizophrenia as well as the individual. The protocol utilizes the cultural believes, values, and behaviors of caregivers to help them cope with the stress of caring for a loved one with schizophrenia.
“We wanted to develop a treatment intervention that taps into cultural beliefs and values that we hypothesized would make the treatment more engaging and relatable to many ethnic minorities that do not necessarily embrace the current mental health care system, said Amy Weisman de Mamani, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at the University of Miami.
“We hoped to develop a treatment that was not only aimed at benefiting patients, but explicitly focused on reducing caregiver distress as well.”
Since the degree of perceived burden and emotions that we experience are tied to one’s cultural view of the world, the project examined the effect of adding culturally based segments to an already established family focused treatment for schizophrenia.
For the study, participants undertook a 15-week family-focused, culturally-informed treatment for schizophrenia (CIT-S). The researchers incorporated modules on spirituality, or religion and family collectivism to already established psychoeducational and communication modules.
Sixty percent of the participants were Hispanic, 28 percent Caucasian, eight percent African American, and nearly four percent identified as “Other.” The researchers believe that the treatment is not specific to particular group, but rather may be helpful to all ethnic, racial, and cultural groups.
Study results show that the new treatment markedly reduces caregiver burden, shame, and guilt, implying an improvement in the quality of life for caregivers and patients alike.
The research appears in the journal Psychotherapy of the American Psychological Association.
“Caring for a patient with severe mental illness can have adverse consequences for the caregiver and ultimately for the patient,” said co-author of the study Giulia Suro, Ph.D.
“These include reduced opportunities to earn an income, socialize, and take care of one’s own personal needs.”
The results show that CIT-S and the psychoeducation-only family intervention were equally and highly effective in reducing shame, although CIT-S markedly outperformed family psychoeducation in reducing caregivers’ burden and guilt.
In the spirituality module, the study aimed at helping families’ access beliefs and practices that could help cope with the illness, such as prayer, meditation, volunteerism, and attending religious services. Family members that did not subscribe to any particular religious practice or belief participated in parallel exercises that didn’t specifically reference “God” or “religion.”
In the family collectivism module, the study assessed and encouraged the ability of family members to develop the perspective that they are part of a unified team working towards common goals.
The study is a follow-up of a study in which the authors shared the first findings about the effect of the CIT-S on patient’s psychiatric symptoms, showing that CIT-S is better at reducing patients’ psychiatric symptoms, than the psychoeducation-only intervention.
Source: University of Miami/EurekAlert