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Psychosocial Treatments for Schizophrenia: 7 To Consider

Medically reviewed by Andrew Turner, M.D.
Updated on April 10, 2024

Psychosocial treatments are forms of therapy including psychotherapy, social education, and vocational (job) training. They’re sometimes used to treat people with mild, moderate, or severe mental illnesses, including schizophrenia. Most of the time, psychosocial treatments are used with antipsychotic medication (also known as pharmacotherapy) to treat multiple elements of the disease, improve schizophrenia symptoms, and boost the well-being and quality of life of people living with the condition.

Schizophrenia and related psychotic disorders affect between 0.25 percent and 0.64 percent of the U.S. population, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Because there’s no cure for schizophrenia, treatment aims to manage symptoms. Antipsychotic medications have been thoroughly tested and are commonly used to treat schizophrenia effectively over the years.

Even though antipsychotic medications work, most people with schizophrenia still have signs and symptoms like:

  • Hallucinations — When a person hears, sees, smells, or feels something that isn’t there
  • Delusions — Beliefs that conflict with reality
  • Cognitive impairment — Difficulty remembering things and making decisions

When added to antipsychotic drugs, psychosocial treatments can help with these problems. The goal of treatment may include relapse prevention, increased independent-living skills, or improved medication adherence.

Below, we discuss some of the most common, evidence-based psychosocial treatments available for people living with schizophrenia. (“Evidence-based” means using treatments or methods shown to work through research and evidence.)

7 Common Psychosocial Treatments for Schizophrenia

There are various forms of psychological treatment, and some people respond better to one type of therapy than another. To figure out which may work best for a particular person, a psychotherapist will consider factors including their personality and the nature of the issues they’re working on.

1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on changing harmful or negative ways of thinking and acting. CBT helps people understand and change their thinking when they’re having strange or confusing thoughts and experiences. This helps them feel better and understand what is true.


CBT is usually part of a comprehensive treatment plan that also includes medication and other psychological treatments.

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CBT is a relatively short-term treatment, usually lasting six to 20 sessions. Sessions are typically weekly or every two weeks and last 30 minutes to an hour. CBT is effective in treating a range of mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia.

CBT is usually part of a comprehensive treatment plan that also includes medication and other psychological treatments. It is usually done one-on-one with a mental health professional, such as a therapist, psychiatrist, or psychologist.

In the past 10 years, there’s been a growing interest in using CBT techniques to help people with schizophrenia — especially those who still have psychotic symptoms despite getting the best possible drug treatment.

In people with schizophrenia, CBT aims to lessen the severity of symptoms like psychosis, delusions, and hallucinations, which are called positive symptoms. It also helps them become more involved in preventing relapse (return of symptoms). CBT also can help to reduce what are called negative symptoms, such as withdrawal and lack of motivation, which can lead to social difficulties.

2. Family Therapy

Family therapy (also known as family intervention) includes the person with schizophrenia and their family members. The goal of family psychoeducation is to help family members better understand and support the person with schizophrenia. Family therapy aims to help family members communicate better and feel closer, which can make life easier for everyone.

The therapy usually involves group sessions with a therapist. Family members can talk about and work through problems, such as caregiving for the person with schizophrenia, managing their symptoms, and living with the stress of the illness.

3. Social Skills Training

Social skills training (SST) focuses on helping people improve their social functioning and interactions with others. Through SST, they learn how to improve their social-interaction abilities, such as engaging in meaningful conversation, expressing emotions in a healthy way, and practicing creative problem-solving.

SST can be done individually, with family members, or in a group setting — but the group approach is the most common. Groups of people living with schizophrenia — usually four to 12 — meet regularly with one or two therapists during which they learn and improve social abilities. The therapist may use strategies such as leading role-playing exercises and showing video examples to help participants develop and improve their skills.

Social abilities include:

  • Speaking and listening well
  • Understanding body language and facial expressions
  • Getting along with others
  • Understanding and sharing others’ feelings
  • Speaking up for yourself when needed
  • Working well with others
  • Solving problems when conflicts arise

Although research is limited, studies have found that SST may improve the quality of life for people living with schizophrenia by helping them create more meaningful relationships with loved ones and encouraging them to be more independent. It may also help reduce symptoms like paranoia and delusions and can help reduce feelings of distress.

4. Vocational Rehabilitation

Vocational rehabilitation helps people with disabilities or serious health issues, such as schizophrenia, prepare for, find, and keep a job. The goal of vocational rehabilitation is to help people with schizophrenia work and live productive, independent lives.

Vocational rehabilitation services may include:

  • Job training and placement
  • Skills assessment
  • Help with finding appropriate work opportunities

Vocational rehabilitation can help with resume building, interview preparation, and job search strategies.


Everyone’s experience with schizophrenia is different, and some forms of psychosocial treatment may be a better fit for one person than another.

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This form of treatment fits under the umbrella of psychosocial rehabilitation, where people with mental health conditions work with a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist to maintain important skills helpful for their day-to-day lives.

5. Case Management

Case management is a way to help people with complicated health needs. It’s like having someone who helps organize everything you need to stay healthy and improve your life. This person, called a case manager, makes sure you get the right help and support at the right time. They work with different services to make sure everything fits together well for you. This process helps you feel more confident about managing your health and making positive changes in your life.

The case manager also works with the person with schizophrenia and their health care providers to make sure they get the help and services they need. This could mean putting the person in touch with other health care providers, community resources, or social services.

One holistic approach is assertive community treatment for schizophrenia, which was developed to help people manage needs directly associated with their illnesses, like medication and psychiatry appointments. ”Holistic” refers to considering the whole person or situation, rather than just focusing on one part. It’s about looking at all the different aspects and how they're connected to understand and address things better. A holistic approach may also help individuals with indirectly associated responsibilities, like housing, finances, and other factors important to their quality of life.

6. Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy is talk therapy that looks at unresolved conflicts and events from a person’s early childhood that may have led to current mental health disorders. The therapy is based on the idea that a person’s subconscious thoughts and past experiences can affect their thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Through psychodynamic therapy, people with schizophrenia can learn more about their symptoms, experiences, and feelings, which helps them understand and manage their condition better. This therapy can help them gain more control over their schizophrenia symptoms.

Psychodynamic therapy is talk therapy that looks at unresolved conflicts and events from a person’s early childhood that may have led to current mental health disorders.

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Importantly, psychodynamic therapy is usually used with pharmacological and other treatment forms. This is because schizophrenia is a complex condition that needs more than one treatment program to manage it.

Psychodynamic therapy should be guided by a mental health professional who has worked with people with schizophrenia before.

7. Peer Support Therapy

Peer support therapy involves talking to and getting help from other people who’ve been through similar mental health issues. There are many kinds of peer support therapy, such as:

  • Peer support groups — These are groups where individuals with schizophrenia can meet regularly to discuss their experiences and offer one another support and encouragement.
  • Peer mentorship programs — These programs pair individuals with schizophrenia with peer mentors who are living with the condition and can offer guidance and support.
  • Peer-led psychoeducation — This type of therapy involves individuals with schizophrenia teaching others about their experiences and the challenges of living with the condition.

Peer support therapy can help individuals with schizophrenia develop coping skills and better manage their symptoms. Research has shown that peer support therapy can improve recovery outcomes, such as a better quality of life and fewer hospital visits.

Possible Side Effects of Psychosocial Treatments

Like all treatments, psychosocial interventions for schizophrenia can have some side effects. However, these side effects are typically mild and short-lived. Some of the common side effects of psychosocial treatments for schizophrenia include:

  • Fatigue — Psychotherapy sessions can be mentally draining, and some people may experience fatigue afterward.
  • Emotional discomfort — Some individuals may feel uncomfortable discussing personal issues and experiences in therapy.
  • Emotional upset — Talking about difficult experiences and emotions can sometimes be triggering and lead to short-term emotional upset.

These side effects are usually mild, and the benefits of psychosocial treatments for schizophrenia can outweigh any temporary discomfort. If you try one of these treatments and experience severe or persistent side effects, talk to your therapist or doctor to determine the best course of action.

Choosing a Psychosocial Treatment

Everyone’s experience with schizophrenia is different, and some forms of psychosocial treatment may be a better fit for one person than another. Work with your doctor or therapist to develop a complete treatment plan with coping strategies that fit your wants and needs.

You can check with your local community mental health center or your doctor’s office to find out what psychosocial services are available in your area. Some treatments may be covered by your insurance plan. Some providers also offer services on a sliding scale.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyDepressionTeam is the social network for people with depression and related mental health conditions, like schizophrenia. Here more than 146,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with depression.

Have you tried any psychosocial treatments for schizophrenia? Have you found therapy for schizophrenia helpful? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

References
  1. Psychosocial Treatment in Schizophrenia — Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience
  2. Psychosocial Interventions in Schizophrenia: Focus on Guidelines — International Journal of Social Psychiatry
  3. Schizophrenia — National Institute of Mental Health
  4. Hallucinations and Hearing Voices — NHS
  5. Understanding Delusions — Industrial Psychiatry Journal
  6. Cognitive Deficits and Functional Outcome in Schizophrenia — Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment
  7. Cognitive Behavior Therapy — StatPearls
  8. Overview — Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) — NHS
  9. The Role of Family Therapy in the Management of Schizophrenia: Challenges and Solutions — Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment
  10. Recent Advances in Social Skills Training for Schizophrenia — Schizophrenia Bulletin
  11. Social Skills Programmes for Schizophrenia — Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
  12. The Critical Ingredients of Assertive Community Treatment — World Psychiatry
  13. Vocational Rehabilitation for People With Severe Mental Illness — Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
  14. Remote Psychosocial Rehabilitation (rPSR): A Broad View — Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Mental Health
  15. Two-Year Prospective Case-Controlled Study of a Case Management Program for Community-Dwelling Individuals With Schizophrenia — Shanghai Archives of Psychiatry
  16. Individual Psychodynamic Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis for Schizophrenia and Severe Mental Illness — Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
  17. Peer Support for People With Schizophrenia and Other Serious Mental Illness — Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
  18. Negative Effects of Psychological Treatments: An Exploratory Factor Analysis of the Negative Effects Questionnaire for Monitoring and Reporting Adverse and Unwanted Events — PLOS One
  19. Negative Effects From Psychological Treatments: A Perspective — American Psychological Association
    Updated on April 10, 2024
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    Andrew Turner, M.D. completed medical school at Creighton University School of Medicine. Learn more about him here.
    Sagar Desai, M.Pharm., Ph.D. is an AMWA-certified medical writer with a health care background. Learn more about him here.

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