Schizophrenia: Talking therapies moderately effective

Cognitive behavioural therapy session

Related Stories

Changing the way people think about and deal with schizophrenia is a moderately effective treatment, say researchers.

Cognitive behavioural therapy is an officially recommended treatment, but is available to less than 10% of patients in the UK with schizophrenia.

A study published in the Lancet indicates CBT could help the many who refuse antipsychotic medication. Experts say larger trials are needed.

About four-in-10 patients benefit from taking antipsychotic medication.

But the drugs do not work for the majority and they cause side-effects such as type 2 diabetes and weight gain.

Up to half of patients with schizophrenia end up not taking the drugs.

The study looked at cognitive behaviour therapy in 74 people.

The therapy works by identifying an individual patient's problem - such as hearing voices, paranoid thinking or no longer going out of the house - and developing techniques to deal with them.

Start Quote

This study suggests that there may be a better option and that offering CBT is better than just leaving such patients to languish”

End Quote Prof Robin Murray

Prof Tony Morrison, director of the psychosis research unit at Greater Manchester West Mental Health Foundation Trust, said: "We found cognitive behavioural therapy did reduce symptoms and it also improved personal and social function and we demonstrated very comprehensively it is a safe and acceptable therapy."

CBT had a moderate effect which was roughly similar to the effect size of antipsychotics - although a head-to-head study directly comparing the two therapies have not been made.

Douglas Turkington, professor of psychiatry at Newcastle University, said: "One of our most interesting findings was that when given the option, most patients were agreeable to trying cognitive therapy."

He added that drugs and cognitive therapy combined were the best treatment.

But while nearly everyone will be offered drugs, only a small proportion have access to cognitive behaviour therapy.

Prof Robin Murray, from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London, said: "Many patients don't like to take antipsychotics in the long term, this is not surprising as they have significant side-effects.

"So what to do for patients with continued psychotic symptoms who don't want to take antipsychotics?

"Until now little was done except lecture them on how silly this was, with the usual result that the patients would simply stop attending.

"This study suggests that there may be a better option and that offering CBT is better than just leaving such patients to languish."

More on This Story

Related Stories

More Health stories


Features & Analysis

  • Signposts showing the US and UK flagsAn ocean apart

    How British misunderstanding of the US is growing

  • Before and after shotsPerfect body

    Just how reliable are 'before and after' photos?

  • Hillary Clinton frowns.Something to hide?

    Hillary's private emails threaten her air of inevitability

  • Mukesh SinghNo remorse

    Delhi bus rapist says victim shouldn't have fought back

BBC Future

(Getty Images)

What it’s really like to die

The seven experiences you face at the end


  • Former al-Qaeda double agent Aimen DeanHARDtalk Watch

    Islamic State is about revenge says former al-Qaeda member turned spy Aimen Dean

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.