ArticlePDF AvailableLiterature Review

Turkington D, Kingdon D, Weiden PJ. Cognitive behavior therapy for schizophrenia

  • CNTW NHS Foundation Trust


A growing body of evidence supports the use of cognitive behavior therapy for the treatment of schizophrenia. A course of cognitive behavior therapy, added to the antipsychotic regimen, is now considered to be an appropriate standard of care in the United Kingdom. The objective of this article is to offer a broad perspective on the subject of cognitive behavior therapy for schizophrenia for the American reader. The authors summarize current practice and data supporting the use of cognitive behavior therapy for schizophrenia. Five aspects of cognitive behavior therapy for schizophrenia are addressed: 1) evidence from randomized clinical trials, 2) currently accepted core techniques, 3) similarities to and differences from other psychosocial interventions for schizophrenia, 4) differences between the United States and United Kingdom in implementation, and 5) current directions of research. The strength of the evidence supporting cognitive behavior therapy for schizophrenia suggests that this technique should have more attention and support in the United States.
Am J Psychiatry 163:3, March 2006 365
Reviews and Overviews
Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Schizophrenia
Douglas Turkington, M.D.
David Kingdon, M.D.
Peter J. Weiden, M.D.
Objective: A growing body of evidence
supports the use of cognitive behavior
therapy for the treatment of schizophre-
nia. A course of cognitive behavior ther-
apy, added to the antipsychotic regimen,
is now considered to be an appropriate
standard of care in the United Kingdom.
The objective of this article is to offer a
broad perspective on the subject of cogni-
tive behavior therapy for schizophrenia
for the American reader.
Method: The authors summarize cur-
rent practice and data supporting the
use of cognitive behavior therapy for
Results: Five aspects of cognitive behav-
ior therapy for schizophrenia are ad-
dressed: 1) evidence from randomized
clinical trials, 2) currently accepted core
techniques, 3) similarities to and differ-
ences from other psychosocial interven-
tions for schizophrenia, 4) differences be-
tween the United States and United
Kingdom in implementation, and 5) cur-
rent directions of research.
Conclusions: The strength of the evi-
dence supporting cognitive behavior ther-
apy for schizophrenia suggests that this
technique should have more attention
and support in the United States.
(Am J Psychiatry 2006; 163:365–373)
Although cognitive behavior therapy is better known
for the treatment of depression, some of the earliest litera-
ture on it pertains to the treatment of schizophrenia. Over
50 years ago, Beck described the case of a patient with a
systematized paranoid delusion who was successfully
treated with a new structured psychotherapy (1). The ther-
apy explored in detail the sequence of life events preced-
ing the emergence of the persons paranoid delusions. The
patient was asked to identify his “persecutors” and to write
down their manner of dress, facial expressions, general be-
havior, and demeanor. Having done this, the patient be-
gan to feel more confident in examining the behavior of
people he had previously assumed to be members of a
government agency. Gradually he started to drop some of
the people from his list of “persecutors,” and eventually he
dropped all of them. The benefit of the therapeutic inter-
vention appeared to last after the therapy sessions ended,
with no return of the delusion at follow-up. During the
1970s and 1980s, when interest in cognitive behavior ther-
apy in the United States primarily focused on depression,
case reports arising out of the United Kingdom described
successful outcomes using cognitive behavior therapy
along with antipsychotic medications for persistent symp-
toms of schizophrenia (2–5).
The successful outcomes of these cases formed the im-
petus to further study these techniques, and they ulti-
mately led to a series of prospective randomized, con-
trolled studies testing cognitive behavior therapy for
schizophrenia. The strength of the current evidence is
such that cognitive behavior therapy is now accepted as
part of the evidence-based treatment for medication-re-
sistant schizophrenia in the United Kingdom.
Evidence Supporting Efficacy for
Cognitive behavior therapy for the treatment of schizo-
phrenia developed against a backdrop of intense skepti-
cism because of past failures of other individual psycho-
therapies with schizophrenia patients. In particular, a
series of controlled trials conducted in the 1960s and
1970s showed that psychoanalytically oriented psycho-
therapy was ineffective, and at times even harmful, for pa-
tients with schizophrenia (6, 7).
For many years thereafter, it seemed self-evident that
symptoms of schizophrenia simply would not respond to
any kind of individual psychotherapy. At best, it was a
waste of time to try to “talk patients out of” their delusions
or hallucinations. The net result of such skepticism has
been the recognition that any promising psychotherapeu-
tic intervention requires extensive testing. Therefore, the
proponents of cognitive behavior therapy for schizophre-
nia had a strong impetus to conduct randomized, con-
trolled trials of this technique. As a result, the literature
generated from randomized, controlled trials on the effi-
cacy and effectiveness of cognitive behavior therapy for
medication-resistant schizophrenia is larger than for any
other individual psychotherapy of schizophrenia in recent
history (8–14).
In 1996, Drury and colleagues (15) reported a random-
ized study of individual and group cognitive behavior
therapy versus recreational activities and support (12 ses-
sions over a maximum of 6 months) during and immedi-
ately following an acute psychotic episode. In this study,
positive symptoms responded more quickly and com-
pletely in the group given cognitive behavior therapy, but
366 Am J Psychiatry 163:3, March 2006
these benefits were not durable over a longer period, i.e., 5
years, of follow-up (16). Bach and Hayes randomly as-
signed inpatients to a short course (four sessions) of a
treatment based on cognitive behavior therapy that is
known as “acceptance and commitment therapy,” and
they reported a significantly lower readmission rate within
the first 4 months after discharge (17) but have not re-
ported on longer-term follow-up. A further randomized
clinical trial by Kuipers and colleagues targeted “stabi-
lized” outpatients experiencing “distressing” psychotic
symptoms who were assigned either to a course of 20 cog-
nitive behavior therapy sessions given by expert clinical
psychologists over 9 months or to treatment as usual (18).
The cognitive behavior therapy group had a greater overall
reduction of psychiatric symptoms and a better categori-
cal response rate (50% versus 31% improvement rate).
Some of the limitations of these early prospective stud-
ies of cognitive behavior therapy for schizophrenia in-
cluded 1) relatively small numbers of patients, 2) absence
of psychotherapy comparison groups, 3) lack of blinded
independent research assessors, and 4) lack of fidelity rat-
ings of therapy sessions. While the magnitude of the ef-
fects of cognitive behavior therapy in many of these trials
was modest, these findings challenged the belief that psy-
chotic symptoms are not amenable to verbal interven-
tions and were encouraging enough to support further re-
search on the efficacy and effectiveness of cognitive
behavior therapy for schizophrenia. The overall pattern of
results favoring cognitive behavior therapy over usual care
seen in these earlier studies was encouraging and set the
stage for another generation of more sophisticated, rigor-
ous randomized, controlled trials of cognitive behavior
therapy for schizophrenia.
Two important studies addressed the concern about
the specificity of cognitive behavior therapy over and
above nonspecific benefits of supportive psychotherapy.
Following previous work using enhancement of problem
solving and coping strategies (19, 20), Tarrier and col-
leagues used a three-arm design to test an intensive
short-term program of cognitive behavior therapy. They
delivered two sessions of cognitive behavior therapy per
week over 10 weeks for a cohort of symptomatic but com-
pliant outpatients with schizophrenia. There were two
comparison groups, one that received an active treatment
(the same number of supportive counseling sessions
given over the same time) and one that received routine
care (21). The results at the end of therapy showed the
greatest improvement in number and severity of positive
symptoms in the group that received cognitive behavior
therapy, less improvement in the supportive counseling
group, and slight deterioration with routine care. How-
ever, the improvements favoring cognitive behavior ther-
apy over supportive counseling were not sustained on
long-term follow-up. After 1 year (22) and 2 years (23),
both therapy groups were comparably less likely to re-
lapse than the group given routine care.
A different pattern of specificity was observed in an-
other randomized, controlled trial using an active psycho-
therapy comparison group. Sensky and colleagues com-
pared 9 months of cognitive behavior therapy with
“befriending,” a supportive therapy designed to control
for nonspecific therapy factors, including the time spent
with the subjects (24). After 9 months of therapy, there was
no benefit of cognitive behavior therapy over befriending;
both groups had made substantial improvements in de-
pressive, positive, and negative symptoms. However, in
contrast to the study by Tarrier et al., this trial indicated
that the benefit from cognitive behavior therapy was more
durable than that from befriending. The patients who re-
ceived cognitive behavior therapy continued to show
symptom improvement during the next 9 months while
the scores of the befriending group began to return to
their previous levels. These data therefore suggest a mod-
erately strong nonspecific effect in the psychological treat-
ment of patients with schizophrenia. However, at least in
the case of befriending, clinical benefits appear to exhibit
less durability.
Medication Adherence Trials
Most of the studies on cognitive behavior therapy ex-
cluded patients who were judged not to be adhering to
their regimens of antipsychotic medication and therefore
not suitable for estimating adherence effects. There are a
few randomized, controlled trials that used adherence
rather than persistent symptoms as the primary outcome,
and the results have been inconsistent (14). Kemp and col-
leagues conducted a study of a brief intervention using
cognitive behavior therapy for acute inpatients in which
the goal was to improve medication adherence after dis-
charge (25). Their final cohort consisted of 74 inpatients
treated for an acute psychotic episode who were randomly
assigned either to supportive counseling or to six sessions
of “compliance therapy” during hospitalization plus out-
patient booster sessions. The patients assigned to compli-
ance therapy had better adherence and fewer relapses
than those assigned to supportive counseling (35% versus
60% relapse rate; hazard ratio=2.1) (26). A study from Ire-
land failed to replicate the efficacy of compliance therapy
(27) in relation to that for a supportive psychotherapy con-
trol group, although it is unclear whether the intervention
included the components of cognitive behavior therapy
that were used in the original study. Despite the inconsis-
tency, the efficacy of cognitive behavior therapy for im-
proving medication adherence seems to be more promis-
ing than that of traditional individual psychoeducation
approaches, which have been consistently disappointing
in their failure to show adherence benefits (28).
Effectiveness Trials
More recently, a series of real-world” effectiveness
studies have been published. Gumley and colleagues
showed relapse prevention benefits from using cognitive
Am J Psychiatry 163:3, March 2006 367
behavior therapy for identifying prodromal signs of re-
lapse (29). Durham and colleagues found modest benefits
in relapse prevention and positive symptom control with
cognitive behavior therapists who had limited prior train-
ing and supervision in cognitive behavior therapy for psy-
chosis (30), although methodological problems make
these findings equivocal. Further studies have shown that
cognitive behavioral techniques can be used effectively in
clinical practice by mental health nurses (31) given brief
(2–3-week) training with ongoing clinical supervision.
Overall, therefore, the studies of the effectiveness of cogni-
tive behavior therapy generally favor the cognitive behav-
ioral intervention, albeit less strongly than some of the
predecessor efficacy trials.
Limitations of Current Efficacy Literature
The literature on cognitive behavior therapy has been
favorable enough to make use of this intervention for
schizophrenia a treatment recommendation in the United
Kingdom. However, the evidence from the literature on
cognitive behavior therapy is not definitive. There remain
issues in interpreting the specificity of cognitive behavior
therapy as well as the durability of any benefit beyond the
period of the intervention itself. For example, the Tarrier
studies demonstrated short-term specificity of the effect
for cognitive behavior therapy over and above that of sup-
portive counseling, but they did not show durability of
that effect (22, 23). In contrast, the Sensky study showed
just the opposite. This study failed to show short-term
benefits from cognitive behavior therapy over and above
those from befriending but did show greater durability of
the improvements from the cognitive behavioral interven-
tion (24). The reason for the contradictory findings is not
known and therefore is unresolved. These unanswered
questions point to the need for other randomized, con-
trolled trials focusing on the specificity and durability of
any putative benefits of cognitive behavior therapy.
Given these remaining uncertainties about the efficacy
of cognitive behavior therapy in the United Kingdom,
there are a number of questions when considering how to
interpret the evidence for a U.S. treatment environment.
There has been a dearth of controlled studies of the effi-
cacy of cognitive behavior therapy for schizophrenia in
the United States. The feasibility of transferring cognitive
behavior therapy as currently practiced in the United
Kingdom to U.S. practice settings is unknown, although
successful U.S. and Canadian pilot projects are emerging
(32–35). Nonetheless, it seems reasonable that greater
consideration be given within the U.S. mental health sys-
tem to supporting research and services to better under-
stand the possible role of cognitive behavior therapy as a
treatment option for persons with schizophrenia.
Key Techniques
Cognitive behavior therapy as practiced for schizophre-
nia is not identical to that used for depression or anxiety
disorders (36). Rather, the techniques are modified to ad-
dress some of the specific limitations imposed by the ill-
ness (e.g., cognitive dysfunction) or its secondary effects
(e.g., stigma and loss). This section is meant to be illustra-
tive rather than comprehensive and focuses more on cog-
nitive behavioral techniques that differ from those of
other approaches (37). Some of the key stages of cognitive
behavior therapy include 1) developing a therapeutic alli-
ance based on the patients perspective, 2) developing al-
ternative explanations of schizophrenia symptoms, 3) re-
ducing the impact of positive and negative symptoms, and
4) offering alternatives to the medical model to address
medication adherence.
Ideally, cognitive behavior therapy for schizophrenia
should consist of at least 10 planned sessions over 6
months with specially trained therapists for patients who
are referred because of persistent symptoms after an initial
course of pharmacotherapy and supportive treatment (38).
Developing a Therapeutic Alliance Based on the
Patient’s Perspective
A therapeutic alliance is essential to any successful psy-
chotherapy, including cognitive behavior therapy. Basic
techniques include developing empathy, respect, uncon-
ditional positive regard, and honesty. One of the cardinal
features of cognitive behavior therapy is its focus on sub-
jective and behavioral connections among the patient’s
beliefs, feelings, and actions, irrespective of whether these
beliefs are “reality based.” The approach involves collabo-
ration without preconceived ideas through guided discov-
ery (39, 40) and understanding of the persons experiences
and beliefs.
The following example illustrates how a clinician with a
cognitive behavioral orientation might respond when a
patient describes a delusional belief:
Patient: “The Mafia has my house under surveillance!”
Clinician: “Well, that is possible…. But why do you
think it is the Mafia? Could it be some other organization?
Or is something else happening altogether? How could we
find out?”
The clinician oriented in cognitive behavior therapy is
interested in the specifics of the patient’s experience. He or
she tries to learn more about them and does not challenge
the patient’s beliefs while at the same time being careful
not to collude with the delusion. In contrast, a clinician us-
ing a biomedical approach would be more likely to ignore
the specific content of the delusion and, rather, discuss the
delusion as a symptom of a neurobiologic disorder.
Developing Alternative Explanations of
Cognitive behavior therapy explores and develops the
patients own understanding of his or her symptoms. The
goal is to find explanations of the patient’s experiences that
are acceptable to both patient and clinician. It aims to im-
368 Am J Psychiatry 163:3, March 2006
prove understanding of the psychosis by using a vulnera-
bility-stress model. Strengths and vulnerabilities are iden-
tified. The antecedent period is explored carefully, any
pertinent stressors are elicited, and the possible effects of
stress are discussed. A formulation is drawn up collabora-
tively, with care to ensure that neither the patient nor the
patient’s caregiver is led to feel he or she is to blame for the
symptoms or the illness. The following example illustrates
working toward such a collaborative formulation:
Clinician: “Can you tell me your understanding of these
voices that you hear?”
Patient: “Well, they started during the Bosnian war.
There was a lot of aircraft activity over my house. Some
sort of military transmission from the planes set it off and
it has continued since.
Clinician: “Do you remember much about what was
happening to you at the time?”
Patient: “I know what you are trying to say. It is all in my
Clinician: “Well, we agreed that you hear somebody
talking…. What is causing it seems less clear…. I accept
that this started when aircraft were going over your house.
However, do you think the sort of voices you hear could be
worsened by loud noise and other things?”
Patient: “What sort of other things?”
Clinician: “Well, for example, it is known that people
who are deprived of sleep for substantial periods—maybe
from the stress of loud noises—can hear voices, among
other things. These voices can sound just like the ones you
describe. Some people describe it rather like dreaming
awake or even a ‘living nightmare.’”
Initially, such alternative explanations may be consid-
ered by the patient but not necessarily accepted. With
time, however, explanations that are mutually acceptable
to both the patient and therapist may evolve (40).
Reducing the Impact of Positive Symptoms
The goal of cognitive behavior therapy is not to try to
persuade or force the patient to agree that he or she has
symptoms of a mental illness. Rather, the goal is to reduce
the severity of, or distress from, the symptom regardless of
whether the patient accepts a diagnostic label.
Delusions are appropriate targets for a collaborative for-
mulation approach. One commonly used technique to
start the formulation process is known as “peripheral
questioning” (41). The clinician begins by asking a series
of peripheral questions about the persons belief system,
with the goal of understanding how the patient arrived at
his or her convictions (e.g., “How could others control
your thoughts? What mechanism would they use?”). Pe-
ripheral questioning is linked with graded reality testing,
which in turn can lead to the introduction of doubt and
the generation of alternative hypotheses. Education about
real-world issues can help patients understand the factual
assumptions made to support their belief systems (e.g.,
Can microchips really be inserted without your knowl-
edge when you are asleep?”). Such ideas can be explored
with appropriate homework exercises (e.g., “Shall we find
out—perhaps on the Internet—what we can about the use
of microchips in operations? Also we could check about
regulations concerning such operations”).
For more systematized delusions, the clinician can use
“inference chaining” (42). This technique involves a pro-
cess of looking for the key personalized meaning underly-
ing a delusion, e.g., it can be used to respond to a state-
ment likeI am the Second Coming of Christ. A reply
might be, “What does that [being the Second Coming of
Christ] mean to you?” Should the patient reply, “It means
that the world will be put to rights,” the subsequent ques-
tion might be, “Why is that so important to you person-
ally?” The immediate answer, “All the wrongs from the past
will be judged,” could be followed with, “And why is that so
important?” The subsequent response, “I was always be-
ing bullied at school,” would represent a successful use of
inference chaining. In this case, the patient was a victim of
bullying at school and responded to this traumatic experi-
ence by always demanding “fair” treatment. He became
very paranoid shortly after being fired from a job for what
he believed to be unfair reasons. Inference chaining iden-
tified this current feeling of life being unfair and his pow-
erlessness in relation to it and allowed specific discussion
of it. This process in a sense bypassed the delusion and re-
sulted in constructive engagement and discussion and a
lowering of his distress from his delusional beliefs.
Hallucinations can also be better understood by dis-
cussing the details of the experience. The clinician might
start with, “Is it like somebody talking to you? Or shout-
ing?” Testing out the exact location of the voices can fol-
low, as well as other details, such as “Do other people hear
their voices? If not, why not?” Discussion of circumstances
in which people without mental illness hear voices can be
relevant (“normalizing”). These symptoms can be pro-
voked in “normal” people, for example, by sleep depriva-
tion, sensory deprivation, bereavement, trauma, and soli-
tary confinement (4). Normalizing is commonly used
during the initial engagement with an acutely psychotic
patient. Rather than try to explain that hallucinations are
caused by a mental illness, a clinician using cognitive be-
havior therapy will often focus on the effects of stress, such
as sleep deprivation (as in the preceding example). This
may be exacerbating or even triggering the patient’s hallu-
cinations. This explanation often brings improved under-
standing and hope, as well as reducing the sense of alien-
ation from others. The functions of medication are
described as improving sleep and acting directly on over-
active regions of the brain.
Beliefs about the voices themselves can include omnip-
otence and omniscience (43). The content of voices can be
usefully debated; for instance, if the voices are making
abusive statements, the accuracy of these statements can
be debated. Often patients are deeply ashamed and em-
barrassed by the voice content and will avoid social inter-
Am J Psychiatry 163:3, March 2006 369
action because of the possibility that others might hear
what the voices are saying. The “voice hearing” experience
may be better understood by using a “voice diary” to look
for variation among different points in the day or among
different activities. Situations that trigger an increase in
voice intensity can be identified, with the generation of
improved coping strategies. Affective responses to hearing
voices (usually anger and anxiety) are often linked to un-
helpful behaviors that maintain and exacerbate the voices.
Once this pattern is identified, patients can gradually
learn to engage more constructively with their voices. Pa-
tients can be trained to take a mindfulness approach to
their voices, leading to acceptance and increased commit-
ment to tackling normal day-to-day activities (17).
Relationship to Medication Management
One of the potential concerns is whether cognitive be-
havior therapy can be misunderstood as a substitute for
antipsychotic medication, rather than an addition to it.
Another possible concern is whether a complication of a
cognitive behavioral approach is medication nonadher-
ence among patients who otherwise would remain adher-
ent to their medication, possibly by underemphasizing
the relationship between symptoms and antipsychotic
medication. There is no evidence that this is a complica-
tion of cognitive behavior therapy. In fact, while better ad-
herence was not an outcome in the studies of treatment-
resistant schizophrenia, some reviews showed better re-
tention in the groups receiving cognitive behavior therapy
than in groups receiving other supportive therapies (14).
Persistent denial of illness is the strongest predictor of
medication nonadherence (44–49). Cognitive behavior
therapy does not insist on acceptance of a diagnosis of
schizophrenia. An agreement can be reached that treat-
ment, both psychological and psychopharmacological,
may be helpful to counter the continuing negative effects
of past traumatic events, sensitivity to stress, or even use
of illicit drugs, without forcing the issue of acceptance or
rejection of a diagnostic label.
Clinical Limitations
Not surprisingly, cognitive behavior therapy is not effec-
tive for all patients. Some are simply too thought disor-
dered or agitated to use cognitive behavior therapy, al-
though the effect of medication may lead them to become
more amenable to treatment. Some may be too paranoid
and unable to form a viable therapeutic alliance. There is
no evidence at the current time that cognitive behavior
therapy is of benefit for patients who consistently refuse
antipsychotic medication. Differences between the cul-
tural backgrounds of the clinician and the patient may
also be problematic; for instance, there is some evidence
of this in the United Kingdom, where therapists who were
not African Caribbean were found to be less effective with
African Caribbean than with white patients (50). There
may be cultural barriers to forming an alliance or develop-
ing shared formulations.
There remain considerable barriers to implementation,
especially when cognitive behavior therapy is not consid-
ered a standard psychosocial intervention for schizophre-
nia. The training experience in the United Kingdom indi-
cates that learning basic cognitive behavior therapy for
schizophrenia requires a minimum of 2 weeks of intensive
training plus ongoing supervision with an expert cognitive
behavior therapy supervisor for clinicians who are already
experienced in treating schizophrenia (31). Introduction
of cognitive behavior therapy is often met with skepticism,
ranging from therapeutic nihilism (e.g., “individual psy-
chotherapy of any form cannot work for schizophrenia” or
people with schizophrenia are too cognitively impaired
for psychological approaches”) to concerns about some of
the specific techniques used (e.g., concern that normaliz-
ing the interpretation of symptoms represents collusion
with the patient’s denial of illness) (51).
Differences From Other Individual
Supportive (Reality-Based) Psychotherapy
Supportive psychotherapy, which is an accepted ap-
proach for helping patients with schizophrenia, deals with
the loss, disability, and stigma arising from having to live
with an illness such as schizophrenia (37). A major differ-
ence between cognitive behavior therapy and supportive
psychotherapy is that cognitive behavior therapy uses
specific techniques with the goal of actively reducing the
severity of some of the core symptoms leading to distress
and disability.
Biomedical Model Psychoeducation
Current views characterizing schizophrenia as a brain
disorder have dictated the use of a biomedical orientation
for psychoeducation (52). Biomedical models share the
concept of a specific diagnosis that has a final common
pathway in significant abnormalities in CNS functioning.
The potential complications that arise from communicat-
ing this concept may not be fully appreciated. Patients
who accept a diagnostic label of schizophrenia have more
depressive symptoms than those who do not (50). Investi-
gators in two European studies using a randomized design
found that the psychoeducation group experienced more
depressive symptoms (53) and even suicidal ideation (54),
and they expressed caution about using psychoeducation
because of these risks. Cognitive behavior therapy tends to
be more focused on symptoms than diagnosis and may
help the patient accept necessary treatment without at the
same time risking a worsening of affective and suicidal
symptoms (24, 31). Cognitive behavior therapy is perhaps
more acceptable—or less demoralizing—for patients
struggling with the personal meaning of what is happen-
ing to them.
370 Am J Psychiatry 163:3, March 2006
Personal Therapy
In the 1990s, Hogarty and colleagues developed and
tested an individual psychotherapy known as “personal
therapy” (55, 56). Personal therapy is a phase-specific indi-
vidual treatment containing elements of psychoeducation,
social skills training, and work on medication adherence
(57). Psychoeducation, a cornerstone of personal therapy,
is based on a biomedical model of illness causation, and so
many of the key components of cognitive behavior therapy
are not included in personal therapy, e.g., developing ex-
planations for psychotic symptoms, normalizing, reality
testing, and formulation. Unlike personal therapy, cogni-
tive behavior therapy is designed to work directly on un-
derstanding and coping with the positive symptoms of
psychosis rather than “containing” them (57).
Cognitive Remediation
Cognitive behavior therapy and cognitive remediation
share the term “cognitive,” but they are very different
treatments. Cognitive remediation is a rehabilitation ap-
proach whose techniques are adapted from the literature
on brain injury. Schizophrenia is associated with cognitive
deficits that impair social and occupational functioning
(58). The goal of cognitive remediation is to improve neu-
rocognitive function and teach patients strategies to com-
pensate for deficits (59). Cognitive remediation and cogni-
tive behavior therapy share a hopeful, optimistic
approach that focuses on the patients’ strengths. Cogni-
tive remediation directly works toward improving neu-
rocognitive functioning by using a model of brain injury
and neuronal plasticity, whereas cognitive behavior ther-
apy works through understanding the personal meaning
of the content of the thoughts, sometimes known as
metacognition” or “thinking about thoughts.
Psychoanalytically Oriented Psychotherapy
Cognitive behavior therapy differs from classic psycho-
analytic therapies in that family conflicts and issues in
childhood are viewed to be less causally related to schizo-
phrenia. The classic psychodynamic therapy of schizophre-
nia as practiced in an earlier era uses free association within
an open therapeutic space to allow the emergence of trans-
ference and countertransference phenomena. Patients
with psychotic symptoms usually cannot tolerate an un-
structured therapeutic environment, and classic psycho-
analysis may therefore be too regressive for the psychotic
patient (6). The structure and approach of cognitive behav-
ior therapy in this regard are completely different. There re-
main some techniques that are shared by cognitive behav-
ior therapy and more modern psychoanalytically oriented
psychotherapy of schizophrenia. Both focus on the thera-
peutic relationship and the personal meaning of psychotic
symptoms. However, a cognitive behavioral approach tends
to be more structured and explicitly collaborative.
Combinations and Contraindications
Cognitive behavior therapy can be used alongside most
biologic models of schizophrenia. It is perfectly acceptable
for a psychiatric practitioner to believe in a biologic/medi-
cal causation of schizophrenia and still embrace a cognitive
behavioral model to use with patient care. Although a cog-
nitive behavioral approach would not contradict a biologic
point of view in a patient whose personal explanation fits
that model, it does not insist on it for patients who prefer
other explanations. Therefore, cognitive behavior therapy is
not compatible with any kind of biomedically based inter-
vention that requires using the diagnostic label “schizo-
phrenia,” forbids any exploration of a personal meaning
(formulation) of psychotic symptoms, or precludes the pos-
sibility of meaningful recovery. On the other hand, cogni-
tive behavior and personal therapy seem contradictory and
incompatible. Similarly, cognitive behavior therapy and
psychodynamic therapy, as currently practiced, seem tech-
nically too different at least to be offered simultaneously,
despite some commonality in relation to exploring mean-
ing and developing the therapeutic relationship. Cognitive
behavior therapy and cognitive remediation are more com-
patible because of their different and complementary goals,
although one should be mindful of not overtaxing patients
with two simultaneous interventions, both of which require
homework and active participation.
Differences Between the United
Kingdom and United States
Although it is not universally available in the United
Kingdom, cognitive behavior therapy for schizophrenia
appears to be more widely practiced there than in the
United States. The fundamental reasons for the transat-
lantic difference certainly do not include the locations
from whence the ideas underlying the cognitive behav-
ioral approach have come. The history of American psy-
chiatry in the last century includes many leading figures
who made contributions to the psychological approach to
patients with schizophrenia that are now part of the fun-
damentals of the cognitive behavioral approach to schizo-
phrenia—Adolf Meyer, Harry Stack Sullivan, Leston Ha-
vens, John Strauss, and Aaron Beck. For example, Meyer
was concerned about the problems of diagnostic labeling
and wrote, “It is unfortunate that Kraepelin turned the at-
tention of psychiatry [toward having] more concern for
the fortune-telling role of the physician than for the bene-
fit of the patient” (60, p. 292). Sullivan emphasized the im-
portance of being interested in the personal meaning of
psychotic symptoms and warned that ignoring the con-
tent of the patient’s delusions could be misinterpreted by
the patient as a confirmation of those very beliefs (61). Sul-
livan also promoted the concept of normalization and the
importance of interpersonal relationships in therapy (61).
Sullivans work was further developed by Havens (51, 62),
who introduced many of the specific techniques, such as
Am J Psychiatry 163:3, March 2006 371
normalizing, that are now cornerstone features of cogni-
tive behavior therapy.
Given this history on the American side of the Atlantic,
the question becomes, Why has there been so little inter-
est in the United States in cognitive behavior therapy for
schizophrenia? We hypothesize that part of the explana-
tion of the resistance to the use of psychotherapy in the
treatment of schizophrenia in the United States comes
from historical differences between psychiatry in the
United Kingdom and the United States. In the United
States, between the 1950s and the 1980s the treatment of
schizophrenia was a central focus of an acrimonious bat-
tle between the early generation of biologic psychiatrists
and psychoanalysts. The outcome of this struggle was that
antipsychotic medications became recognized as the pri-
mary treatment for schizophrenia, but the fallout was an
almost complete disavowal of interest in any kind of indi-
vidual psychotherapy for the treatment of schizophrenia
on the American side of the Atlantic. In contrast, neither
psychoanalysis nor biological psychiatry has ever had the
same dominance in British psychiatry, so the academic at-
mosphere in the United Kingdom may have been more
open to continued work on individual psychotherapy for
schizophrenia (63, 64).
Another aspect of the discrepancy in support for re-
search on cognitive behavior therapy has been the differ-
ence in the approaches to health care research and deliv-
ery, i.e., the presence in the United Kingdom of universal
health care and its absence in the United States. The U.K.
National Health Service encourages multidisciplinary re-
search and clinical practice. Such control over service de-
livery makes standardization of mental health training
and licensing much more feasible in the United Kingdom
than the United States.
New Directions
The effectiveness of cognitive behavior therapy is being
evaluated in patients with comorbid alcohol or substance
abuse (65, 66), in combination with atypical antipsychot-
ics (67), and in the earlier stages of schizophrenia (68, 69).
Further, cognitive behavior therapy may have a role in pre-
venting or delaying transition from a preschizophrenia
state to a full-blown diagnosis of schizophrenia (70, 71).
Evidence-based interventions such as cognitive behav-
ior therapy should be made available to patients with
schizophrenia in the United States. American-based guide-
lines such as those issued by the American Psychiatric As-
sociation (72) and the Schizophrenia Patient Outcomes Re-
search Team (PORT) (73) may accelerate this process, as
they now recommend cognitive behavior therapy for treat-
ment-resistant patients. Further research is urgently
needed, especially in the United States, but it would seem
appropriate to target research questions that are most per-
tinent to the U.S. treatment environment. For example, it
would be important to adapt current treatment manuals
for cognitive behavior therapy to match the mental health
training backgrounds of U.S. practitioners and to design
active control interventions that emulate current psycho-
social or psychoeducational practices in the United States.
It seems no longer appropriate for providers of treatment
for schizophrenia in the United States to ignore the current
evidence supporting the efficacy of cognitive behavior
therapy. Yet, conversely, it would be imprudent to uncriti-
cally accept and inflexibly transplant this approach from
the United Kingdom to the United States.
There appears to be a clinically significant benefit of
cognitive behavior therapy for patients with ongoing per-
sistent symptoms of schizophrenia. If patients with medi-
cation-resistant schizophrenia are to have any chance of
receiving individual cognitive behavior therapy from well-
trained mental health clinicians within the U.S. treatment
service environment, a major change in attitudes, re-
search funding, and training programs will be needed. The
implications for training go beyond the production of spe-
cialist cognitive behavior therapists. Although specialists
are needed as expert clinicians, supervisors, and trainers,
the use of cognitive behavioral techniques is well within
the scope of practicing clinical psychiatrists, psycholo-
gists, and community mental health professionals (74).
There should be greater knowledge of the possible compli-
cations arising from the biomedical model of psychoedu-
cation and of the existence of high-quality evidence sup-
porting the efficacy and effectiveness of cognitive
behavior therapy for schizophrenia. If the promise of cog-
nitive behavior therapy for schizophrenia is replicated in
the United States, it will represent a major advance that
can supplement the better-known pharmacological ad-
vances available for this difficult illness.
Received April 18, 2004; revisions received Feb. 27, July 4, and Sept. 8,
2005; accepted Oct. 19, 2005. From the Department of Psychiatry,
Royal Victoria Infirmary; the Department of Psychiatry, University of
Southampton, Southampton, U.K.; and the Department of Psychiatry,
SUNY Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, N.Y. Address correspon-
dence and reprint requests to Dr. Turkington, Department of Psychiatry,
Leazes Wing, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Richardson Road, Newcastle-
upon-Tyne, Tyne and Wear NE4 4LP, U.K.;
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... It can be provided either in individual or group format and the sessions are conducted weekly or biweekly over a period of 9 months. In this intervention it is important to create a treatment alliance and the patient plays an active role in the therapy [32]. The main techniques used are SST and cognitive therapy (CT). ...
The deinstitutionalization occurred in the second half of the twentieth century in Europe and high-income countries modified the Mental Health Care System (MHCS) and how schizophrenia is understood and treated [1]. Priority has been given to outpatient care and community-based services due to the reduction of psychiatric beds. Not all countries have managed to develop adequate community mental health programmes. Many of them continued to invest in traditional services and only a minority of patients received appropriate outpatients’ treatment and evidence-based, person-centred psychiatric rehabilitation interventions [1]. At that time two models have challenged the Kraepelian assumption that schizophrenia is a biological and unchangeable disease: the “Recovery Model” and the “Stress-Vulnerability Model” [2]. According to the latter theory, schizophrenia is determined by genetics and environmental insults. This suggests that the illness trajectory could be modified and relapses and hospitalization could be prevented by lowering biological vulnerability or reducing stress [2]. Psychiatric rehabilitative interventions have been developed on this principle. The purpose of these interventions is helping individuals suffering from severe and persistent mental disorders to develop the intellectual, emotional and social skills and the conditions necessary to live, learn and work in the community with the minimum amount of professional support [3]. Recovery from mental illness is no more only the absence of symptoms, but also a return to normal functioning and the attainment of a meaningful and valued life for patients [3]. Psychosocial functioning is therefore defined as patients’ ability to fulfil their role in society as members of a family or as professional workers [4]. Functional outcome is undoubtedly impaired in severe mental ill patients [5]. A lot of studies investigated the factors that affect functional outcomes in psychiatric consumers. Neurocognition is one of the first factors described, along with functional capacity and social cognition [6]. Symptoms have been associated with functional outcomes, with negative symptoms appearing to interfere more than positive ones [7]. Quality of life (QoL), occupation, family, leisure time, other elements of daily living, finances, physical and mental health are the variables on which to intervene [4]. In this scenario, psychosocial interventions—working on all these variables— in add on drugs and psychotherapy, find an important role in improving functioning in patients with schizophrenia [5]. Psychosocial interventions aim to potentiate the effect of pharmacological treatment and are focused on specific areas of personal functioning, in order to improve the clinical outcome and contribute to reduce the number of relapses and hospitalizations [8].
Psychosis can present a variety of symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, catatonia, thought and speech disorganization, alogia, avolition and general functional decline. Transient psychotic symptoms are not uncommon during development and are not always indicative of psychopathology. Psychosis can be a manifestation of a schizophrenia spectrum disorder, or occur in the context of a mood disorder, such as major depression or bipolar mania. It can also be due to substance abuse or certain medical conditions, such as the NMDA encephalitis. Most cases of schizophrenia start between 15 and 25 years of age, while an onset under age 13 is rare. Schizophrenia tends to have an insidious onset with many months of subsyndromal and non-specific symptoms prior to the first openly psychotic episode. Repeated use of cannabis in youth increases the risk of psychosis, since the developing brain is especially sensitive to the psychoactive effects of tetrahydrocannabinol. As the duration of untreated psychosis predicts worse functional outcomes over time, a prompt recognition and early treatment of psychotic disorders has high clinical relevance. To this end, a close collaboration between paediatricians and child and adolescent neuropsychiatrists is crucial.
In 2016, the Russian Federation started a reform of residential institutions for psychiatric patients. An essential condition of its success is reintegration of patients into society, which implies development and implementation of effective psychosocial rehabilitation programs. Materials and Methods. In 2018, an integrated rehabilitation program was developed and implemented for the first time in Psychoneurological Residential Institution No. 22 in Moscow. The program integrated the principles and methods of M. Spivak’s systemic approach, cultural-historical psychology, and cognitive-behavioral therapy. The rehabilitation group included 12 patients with chronic mental disorders and disabilities who had resided in the institution for 3 to 16 years. The total duration of the program was 6 months. An expert assessment of the participants’ psychological and social competencies in the major life areas (housing and everyday life; work and employment; hygiene; interpersonal relations; hobbies and leisure) was carried out before and after the rehabilitation program, using Spivak’s diagnostic scales. Results. A study of the integrated rehabilitation program effectiveness showed a statistically significant improvement in the patients’ competencies in the major life areas. Follow-up of the dynamics within the following 3 years upon the program completion revealed positive changes in their social adaptation. Output. A preliminary conclusion could be made that the proposed integrated rehabilitation program might be effective for shaping and training of social skills that increase the patients’ autonomy, as well as for overcoming self-limiting attitudes and avoidance strategies resulting from their negative experience of social “defeats” and institutional experience of learned helplessness. Each of the three integrated approaches contributed to achieving the rehabilitation objectives. Further research with larger samples is needed.
Over 50,000 defendants are referred for competency to stand trial evaluations each year in the United States (Psychological evaluations for the courts: A handbook for mental health professionals and lawyers, New York, NY: The Guildford Press; 2018). Approximately 20% of those individuals are found by courts to be incompetent and are referred for “restoration” or remediation (Psychological evaluations for the courts: A handbook for mental health professionals and lawyers, 4th edn. New York, NY: The Guildford Press; 2018; Bull Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 1991;19:63–9). The majority of those incompetent defendants meet criteria for psychotic illnesses (J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 2007;35:34–43). Forensic mental health professionals frequently have such patients/defendants decline recommended treatment with psychotropic medication. For a significant minority of defendants diagnosed with psychotic disorders, treatment with medication is thought to be necessary to restore their competency to stand trial. Without psychiatric intervention to restore competency, defendants may be held for lengthy and costly hospitalizations while criminal proceedings are suspended. In these situations, clinicians are guided by the Supreme Court decision, Sell v. United States (2003). The Sell opinion describes several clinical issues courts must consider when determining whether a defendant can be treated involuntarily solely for the purpose of restoring his/her competency. This paper offers some guidance to clinicians and evaluators who are faced with making recommendations or decisions about involuntary treatment. Using a question and answer format, the authors discuss data that support a decision to request, or not request, court authorization for involuntary treatment. Specifically, eight questions are posed for forensic evaluators to consider in determining the prognosis or viability of successful treatment and restoration. Finally, a clinical vignette is also presented to highlight important factors to consider in Sell‐related evaluations.
Pediatricians are often the first physicians to encounter adolescents and young adults presenting with psychotic symptoms. Although pediatricians would ideally be able to refer these patients immediately into psychiatric care, the shortage of child and adolescent psychiatry services may sometimes require pediatricians to make an initial assessment or continue care after recommendations are made by a specialist. Knowing how to identify and further evaluate these symptoms in pediatric patients and how to collaborate with and refer to specialty care is critical in helping to minimize the duration of untreated psychosis and to optimize outcomes. Because not all patients presenting with psychotic-like symptoms will convert to a psychotic disorder, pediatricians should avoid prematurely assigning a diagnosis when possible. Other contributing factors, such as co-occurring substance abuse or trauma, should also be considered. This clinical report describes psychotic and psychotic-like symptoms in the pediatric age group as well as etiology, risk factors, and recommendations for pediatricians, who may be among the first health care providers to identify youth at risk.
Full-text available
Delusions are deeply evidence-resistant. Patients with delusions are unmoved by evidence that is in direct conflict with the delusion, often responding to such evidence by offering obvious, and strange, confabulations. As a consequence, the standard view is that delusions are not evidence-responsive. This claim has been used as a key argumentative wedge in debates on the nature of delusions. Some have taken delusions to be beliefs and argued that this implies that belief is not constitutively evidence-responsive. Others hold fixed the evidence-responsiveness of belief and take this to show that delusions cannot be beliefs. Against this common assumption, I appeal to a large range of empirical evidence to argue that delusions are evidence-responsive in the sense that subjects have the capacity to respond to evidence on their delusion in rationally permissible ways. The extreme evidence-resistance of delusions is a consequence of powerful masking factors on these capacities, such as strange perceptual experiences, motivational factors, and cognitive biases. This view makes room for holding both that belief is constitutively evidence-responsive and that delusions are beliefs, and it has important implications for the study and treatment of delusions.
Delusions are commonly conceived as false beliefs that are held with certainty and which cannot be corrected. This conception of delusion has been influential throughout the history of psychiatry and continues to inform how delusions are approached in clinical practice and in contemporary schizophrenia research. It is reflected in the full psychosis continuum model, guides psychological and neurocognitive accounts of the formation and maintenance of delusions, and it substantially determines how delusions are approached in cognitive-behavioural treatment. In this Review, we draw on a clinical-phenomenological framework to offer an alternative account of delusion that incorporates the experiential dimension of delusion, emphasising how specific alterations to self-consciousness and reality experience underlie delusions that are considered characteristic of schizophrenia. Against that backdrop, we critically reconsider the current research areas, highlighting empirical and conceptual issues in contemporary delusion research, which appear to largely derive from an insufficient consideration of the experiential dimension of delusions. Finally, we suggest how the alternative phenomenological approach towards delusion could offer new ways to advance current research and clinical practice.
Schizophrenia is associated with significant health, social, occupational, and economic burdens, including increased mortality. Despite extensive and robust research on the treatment of individuals with schizophrenia, many individuals with the illness do not currently receive evidence-based pharmacological and nonpharmacological treatments. The American Psychiatric Association Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients With Schizophrenia, Third Edition, aims to enhance knowledge and increase the appropriate use of interventions for schizophrenia, thereby improving the quality of care and treatment outcomes. To this end, this evidence-based Performance in Practice tool can facilitate the implementation of a systematic approach to practice improvement for the care of individuals with schizophrenia. This practice assessment activity can also be used in partial fulfillment of Continuing Medical Education and Maintenance of Certification, part IV, requirements, which can also satisfy requirements for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Merit-based Incentive Payment System program.
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Persistent drug-resistant psychotic symptoms are a pervasive problem in the treatment of schizophrenia. To evaluate the durability of the treatment effects of cognitive-behavioural therapy for chronic schizophrenia one year after treatment termination. A comparison of clinical outcomes was made at one-year follow-up from a randomised trial of cognitive-behavioural therapy, supportive counselling and routine care alone in the treatment of chronic schizophrenia. Seventy out of the 72 patients (97%) who completed treatment were assessed at follow-up. There were significant differences between the three groups when positive and negative symptoms were analysed by means of ANCOVAs. Between-group comparisons indicated significant differences between cognitive-behavioural therapy and routine care at follow-up for positive symptoms. There was a trend towards significance for both cognitive-behavioural therapy and supportive counselling to be superior to routine care alone on negative symptoms. At 12-month follow-up the significant advantage of cognitive-behavioural therapy compared to routine care alone remained.
This article explains the role of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) and how the RCM is involved in its operation.
Several controlled studies indicate that cognitive behavioral interventions, in conjunction with antipsychotic medication, reduce positive psychotic symptoms in acute as well as chronic schizophrenia. However, a recent review found that CBT did not reduce relapse and readmission compared to standard care. Nevertheless there is a need for searching for new ways for the CBT therapy for acute psychotic patient.A central claim of narrative therapy is to “narrate” our lives. It means that we form narratives of the past and future these narratives do not only describe but also affect our lives. Psychotic patients have problem-saturated stories and the aim of the therapeutic work is both to articulate negative story and its effects upon the person and then to move on to the constructing and preferred narrative with more positive view on the story and consequently on the self, others and the world The CBT approach from Padesky has been adapted in narrative cognitive behavioral therapy to use with most patients suffering from psychosis. Patients are asked to state any negative beliefs they have about themselves, others, and world, and then are asked to describe how they would prefer all these things to be.In narrative cognitive behavioral approach the therapist searches, yields to surface and stabilize stories that don’t support patients troubleshooting experiencing of the reality, develop alternative stories that lead to new view of things, positive change of themselves - conception and to problem solving that is in contemporary context detected.
Traditionally, delusions have been viewed as false, unshakeable beliefs which arise out of internal morbid processes and are out of keeping with a person's educational and cultural background (Hamilton, 1978). Primary delusions appear to arise without understandable cause, and secondary delusions appear more understandable in relation to the prevailing affective state or cultural climate (Sims, 1995), for example. However, during the cognitive therapy process we would expect that even primary delusions might become more understandable as the patient's life history and belief profile are gradually disclosed.
Beginning in 1992, the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research and the National Institute of Mental Health funded the Schizophrenia Patient Outcomes Research Team (PORT) to develop and disseminate recommendations for the treatment of schizophrenia based on existing scientific evidence. These Treatment Recommendations, presented here in final form for the first time, are based on exhaustive reviews of the treatment outcomes literature (previously published in Schizophrenia Bulletin, Vol. 21, No. 4, 1995) and focus on those treatments for which there is substantial evidence of efficacy. The recommendations address antipsychotic agents, adjunctive pharmacotherapies, electroconvulsive therapy, psychological interventions, family interventions, vocational rehabilitation, and assertive community treatment/intensive case management. Support for each recommendation is referenced to the previous PORT literature reviews, and the recommendations are rated according to the level of supporting evidence. The PORT Treatment Recommendations provide a basis for moving toward "evidence-based" practice for schizophrenia and identify both the strengths and limitations in our current knowledge base. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved)
"This book covers all the major articles that Sullivan wrote from the beginning of his writing career (1924) through 1935, either through the articles themselves or in the Commentaries." There are also a few post-1935 articles in which schizophrenia is the central subject. The "Introduction" and "Commentaries" were written by Helen Swick Perry. "Harry Stack Sullivan, the Man" by Clara Thompson is also reprinted. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Although cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) has strong empirical support for treating a diverse array of psychological conditions, only recently has research begun to examine its efficacy in treating the symptoms associated with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. Several randomized controlled trials have been conducted on CBT for psychosis with some positive results, but trials comparing CBT to other nonspecific interventions have yielded less impressive findings. No well-controlled trial to date has attempted to dismantle the components of CBT for psychosis, to compare it to another empirically supported psychosocial intervention for this population, or to identify the specific mechanisms responsible for treatment effectiveness. In this paper, a review of the empirical status of CBT for psychosis is presented. In addition, promising but preliminary new research in this area is reviewed, including prevention and early intervention approaches and acceptance/mindfulness-based strategies. Within this context, limitations in the current literature are reviewed, and recommendations for future research are discussed.