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Psychosocial interventions for schizophrenia

Juan Bustillo, MD
Elizabeth Weil, MD
Section Editor
Stephen Marder, MD
Deputy Editor
Richard Hermann, MD


Schizophrenia is a psychiatric disorder involving chronic or recurrent psychosis. It is commonly associated with impairments in social and occupational functioning. [1]. It is among the most disabling and economically catastrophic medical disorders, ranked by the World Health Organization as one of the top ten illnesses contributing to the global burden of disease [2].

Antipsychotic medications are first-line treatment for schizophrenia. They have been shown in clinical trials to be effective in reducing symptoms and behaviors associated with the disorder. However, most patients with schizophrenia experience disabling impairment even after benefiting from antipsychotics, including positive and negative symptoms, cognitive deficits, poor social functioning, and episodes of acute symptomatic relapse. Empirically validated psychosocial interventions, added to antipsychotic medication, target one or more of these deficit areas.

This topic addresses psychosocial interventions for schizophrenia. Psychosocial interventions for severe mental illness (not limited to schizophrenia), including assertive community treatment and supported employment, are discussed separately. The epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinical presentation, clinical manifestations, course, diagnosis and pharmacotherapy for schizophrenia are also discussed separately. Common comorbid presentations of schizophrenia are also discussed separately. (See "Psychosocial interventions for severe mental illness", section on 'Efficacy' and "Schizophrenia: Epidemiology and pathogenesis" and "Schizophrenia: Clinical manifestations, course, assessment, and diagnosis" and "Depression in schizophrenia" and "Anxiety in schizophrenia" and "Co-occurring schizophrenia and substance use disorder: Epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, course, assessment and diagnosis" and "Pharmacotherapy for schizophrenia: Acute and maintenance phase treatment" and "Pharmacotherapy for schizophrenia: Long-acting injectable antipsychotic drugs".)


Following treatment with antipsychotic medication, which is often only partially effective, most individuals with schizophrenia would benefit from systematic rehabilitation. This may include family interventions, social skills training, and/or cognitive behavioral therapy, which are discussed in this topic, as well as assertive community treatment and supported employment, which are discussed separately. (See "Psychosocial interventions for severe mental illness".)

Psychosocial interventions are indicated for patients with schizophrenia and the characteristics that follow as an adjunct to antipsychotic medication:


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Oct 13, 2016.
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