Handbook of Psychotherapy and Behavior Change: Starting in March 2013 I will review one chapter a month from the Handbook of Psychotherapy and Behavior Change in addition to reviewing psychotherapy research articles. Book chapters have more restrictive copy right rules than journal articles, so I will not provide author email addresses for these chapters. If you are interested, the Handbook table of content can be viewed on Amazon.
Forand, N.R., DeRubeis, R.J., & Amsterdam, J.D. (2013). Combining medication and psychotherapy in the treatment of major mental disorders. In M.J. Lambert (Ed.) Bergin and Garfield’s handbook of psychotherapy and behaviour change (6th ed.), pp. 735-774. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley.
This comprehensive chapter covers evidence for combining medication and psychotherapy for several disorders. This month I report on the section of the chapter on schizophrenia. Practice guidelines recommend antipsychotic medications as the first line treatment for Schizophrenia. However, up to 30% of individuals show an initial poor response and an additional 30% of patients continue to experience symptoms. Medication side effects can be debilitating, resulting in poor adherence and therefore reduced effectiveness. Further, Schizophrenia spectrum disorders are heterogenous in presentation and course, and so a “one size fits all” approach will not be effective for some or many. Psychotherapies can enhance the effectiveness of medications at different phases of treatment to hasten recovery or reduce medication-resistant symptoms. CBT for schizophrenia was developed to treat persistent medication-resistant positive psychotic symptoms (i.e., positive symptoms refer to delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech and behaviour; whereas negative symptoms refer to restrictions in: emotions, thoughts, speech, and initiating goal directed behaviors). CBT focuses on reappraising the power and source of hallucinations, evaluating delusions, and addressing motivational deficits. CBT appears to be effective for chronic symptoms of schizophrenia with small to moderate effects, and these effects appear to be enduring. There is currently less and mixed evidence for CBT to speed recovery from first episode psychosis and to improve relapse rates. There is also evidence suggesting the effects of family psychoeducation to reduce relapse and to improve caregiver outcomes. However, family psychoeducation requires the participation of a caregiver, which may be a challenge that limits its utility. There is promising research on multidisciplinary rehabilitation programs that include case management, behaviour management, social skills training, social cognitive training, and cognitive remediation. There is also controversial research on providing psychological interventions alone or in a staged approach (i.e, in which earlier and less severe stages are treated with more benign interventions, and later stages are treated more aggressively with medication). However there are as yet no well-controlled clinical data to support this approach.
Adjunctive psychosocial treatments appear to improve symptomatic and functional outcomes in individuals with schizophrenia spectrum disorders. CBT is best suited for treating chronic positive psychotic symptoms, but its effect on relapse prevention is equivocal. Individuals who are at risk for relapse might benefit from family psychoeducation, if the caregiver can be engaged. Multidisciplinary rehabilitation programs are a promising avenue of treatment.