Schizophrenia: When Is It Time To See a Therapist?


Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder that shows up in about one percent of the population, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. It is often treated with anti-psychotic medication to control symptoms what would otherwise interfere with everyday functioning. Therapy is also useful to support people with schizophrenia, help them deal with life challenges, and encourage them to stay on their meds.

If you suffer from schizophrenia, how do you know if you need a therapist? Here are five signs that therapy may help you, adapted from this WebPsychology article:

1. You need help managing your symptoms

Medication is very helpful at reducing symptoms like hallucinations and delusional thought patterns, but it might not completely eliminate them. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches you to recognize and deal with these problems. You learn to critically analyze what you believe you’re perceiving to separate reality from symptoms of the disorder. CBT also helps you recognize and stop unhealthy thoughts and revert to positive thought patterns.

2. You need help with substance abuse issues

Many schizophrenics have a dual diagnosis; in addition to the primary problem, they suffer from alcohol or drug addiction. This often happens to people when the disorder isn’t diagnosed or they don’t get proper treatment. They turn to alcohol or drugs in an attempt to self-medicate, and the addiction doesn’t disappear once they finally get the help they need. If you’re schizophrenic and are drinking too much, using illegal drugs, or abusing prescription medication, a counselor experienced in alcohol and drug addiction treatment can help you address the issue.

3. You need help dealing with medication side effects

While anti-psychotic drugs can make a world of difference in easing the symptoms of schizophrenia, they have some very unpleasant side effects. Counseling helps with things like weight gain, which can affect a person’s self esteem. It also offers support for those who have side effects like fatigue, sexual dysfunction, and other effects that impact quality of life.

It’s common for schizophrenics to stop taking medication because of the unpleasant side effects. Unfortunately, that usually means a recurrence of their symptoms and a severe impact on their functioning. The psychiatrists who prescribe the medication typically don’t have much time to spend with each patient, so counselors can take on that supportive role. Having someone to talk to about the side effects increases compliance in taking medication as prescribed.

4. You need a reality check

One of the most insidious things about schizophrenia is that people often don’t recognize the fact that they have a disorder. The National Alliance on Mental Illness says that up to 60 percent of those diagnosed with schizophrenia don’t believe there’s anything wrong with them. They lack the ability to see that their hallucinations or delusions are not real. A therapist using CBT acts as a reality check to help the patient recognize his or her symptoms and understand that these symptoms are not normal. Therapists are also good sounding boards to help patients see if they’re improving and to recognize backslides.

5. You need an advocate

Families often don’t understand schizophrenia, yet support from family members is a critical component in any effective treatment plan. Your family members can help you through the rough times and remind you to take your medication. They’re more likely to do so if they’re educated about your disorder. Family therapy gets them involved, enhances their understanding, and shows them specific ways to support you. Your therapist acts as your advocate, as well as an objective source of information.

If you’re living with schizophrenia and aren’t currently seeing a therapist but would like to explore the idea, use the WebPsychology Therapist Finder to help you locate a professional in your area. You can also consult immediately with a doctor 24 hours a day via the site’s Ask a Doctor feature. When choosing a therapist, ask if he or she is experience with cognitive behavioral therapy and working with schizophrenic patients. It’s critical to find a therapist with experience in both of those areas.