Can therapy help with psychosis?

It’s very helpful to have someone that stands with you and believes you—even if they don’t experience it themselves.

Autumn, 26

Mental illnesses such as schizophrenia can present with psychotic symptoms. Psychosis can cause distortions in your surroundings and thought processes. Some examples of psychotic symptoms are paranoia, inappropriate emotional responses, and auditory and visual hallucinations. It can be challenging living with these symptoms day-to-day especially when you are trying to manage them on your own.

There are many treatment options available to those who experience episodes of psychosis. When people think of mental health treatment, most people think of therapy, specifically talk therapy.  Therapy is one option that provides an exploration of your symptoms and how they might be impacting your life. There are several types of treatments available for psychosis, so depending on your needs you can choose the one that best fits your interests. Let’s look at some of the benefits that therapy can provide.

Benefits of Therapy 

When managing psychotic symptoms, there are many benefits to therapy. Therapy works by helping you explore possible causes of your symptoms and learning what your triggers may be and what makes your experiences worse or better. Therapy can also provide you with ways to cope and help you feel better. Other benefits of therapy include:

  • Having a safe, private place to express your feelings and become more educated on what you are experiencing.
  • Discussing previous trauma that may have become a contributor to your psychosis and learn about possible treatment options.
  • Developing a better understanding of your triggers by listening to another person’s perception.
  • Having someone guide you and be available when your psychotic symptoms become concerning.

Depending on the type of therapy you decide to use, you will have the opportunity to open up about your symptoms. This will hopefully reduce the occurrence of psychosis.

Benefits of Different Types of Therapies

Many types of therapy can be used to assist you in your journey. Most research finds that combining medication support with therapy is the best for getting better. You can decide if you want to speak to a group of people that have similar experiences as you. Or if you want to talk one on one with a professional. No matter your decision, you do not have to manage your psychosis alone. There are common types of therapy used to treat, manage, and prevent recurring episodes of psychosis. Each type of therapy can be used individually or in combination to enhance your treatment plan. Let’s review the main categories of therapy:

Psychotherapy

Talk therapy that is aimed at discovering what may be causing your psychosis such as emotional distress or underlying mental illness. This is done one-on-one with a mental health professional or psychiatrist. A good therapist will not shy away from exploring your psychosis. This includes exploring what the voices or visions mean, how they might be tied to trauma or stress, and how to feel better.

Our thoughts don’t come from nowhere; they come from beliefs and understanding. That’s the basis of all the thoughts, speech, and actions. Getting underneath the mind processes—I think that’s what people should talk about more.

Biren, 39

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a structured type of talk therapy that explores how your thoughts impact your emotions and feelings and then your behaviors. The therapy can be limited to a specific number of sessions. A trusting relationship is built with a professional so they can stand by you throughout your journey. Education is then given on symptoms you’re having to promote a deeper understanding. A treatment plan is then followed that fits with your lifestyle.

Group Therapy

Support groups can help you find others who you can relate to and understand you. Hearing what other people are going through can make it so you don’t feel alone. This lets you know that you’re not the only one living with psychosis and helps you to find support. Group therapy is also great for getting diverse advice about issues you may be experiencing.

I always felt like I didn’t know what to say to people—even before the psychosis. So what helped me was being in a therapy or support group, with a social worker and one other person usually running the group. And just learning how to relate to people.

Charlie, 69

Wrap Around Team Based Services

Teams that support people with psychosis are called Assertive Community Treatment teams or Coordinated Specialty Care. This kind of coordinated care is done by a team of people that include a doctor, nurse, social worker, case manager, and peer support specialists. They can give you help with work, school, social skills, and family dynamics. They will go with you into the community, visit your house, and help you get better. This type of treatment is available for young people struggling with psychosis for the first time (called clinical high risk or first episode psychosis). Or it’s available for adults who didn’t get treatment earlier and now might be homeless or on disability because of psychosis. A treatment plan is created that focuses on support and overall health.

What works best you

Therapy provides a treatment option to help you to manage your psychosis and hopefully reduce the occurrence of episodes. Therapies can also be used in combination to best fit your busy life and give you options for yourself.

Not all therapies will work for everyone, so it is advised to think about what you are looking for in your treatment and overall goals. Combining lifestyle changes can assist in your journey and help you better manage possible causes of psychosis by meeting your basic needs and enhancing your life as a whole. Talk to a professional to see what type of therapy would match your needs or if another type of regimen is right for you.

You may have questions about how to get started so you can begin therapy. Here are some links to resources that can help you when choosing a therapist and guidance in finding a therapist. Also, check out ways that you can get the most out of your therapy and set treatment goals!

 

  1.   Health Quality Ontario. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Psychosis: A Health Technology Assessment. Ont Health Technol Assess Ser. 2018 Oct 24;18(5):1-141. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30443277/
  2.   Heinssen R, Goldstein A & Azrin S. Evidence-based treatments for first episode psychosis: Components of coordinated specialty care. National Institute of Mental Health. 2014; Retrieved from NIMH » Evidence-Based Treatments for First Episode Psychosis: Components of Coordinated Specialty Care (nih.gov)
  3.   Jacobsen P, Hodkinson K, Peters E, Chadwick P. A systematic scoping review of psychological therapies for psychosis within acute psychiatric in-patient settings. Br J Psychiatry. 2018 Aug;213(2). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6054872/

 


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