May 17, 2005

Benefits of group psychotherapy

What are the effects of group cognitive behaviour therapy for voices? A randomised control trial.
Wykes T, Hayward P, Thomas N, Green N, Surguladze S, Fannon D, Landau S.

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is a type of talk psychotherapy that has been shown to help decrease positive symptoms of schizophrenia (eg. voices). But, it is still rarely provided to persons with schizophrenia in the United States, in contrast to Great Britain where it is widely available. This might be because of reasons such as a greater skepticism in the US about the benefits of psychotherapy for persons with severe mental illness, over-optimism concerning the clinical benefits of medications to the exclusion of other types of treatments, and a traditional separation between psychology and psychiatry in the US as compared to the UK.

In this paper, the authors wanted to look at whether group CBT treatment can also have beneficial effects on hallucinations. In the UK consumer groups such as the Hearing Voices Network UK have been providing support and advice for many years.

They reasoned that maybe easier treatment access to CBT in the US might be enhanced via a group method rather than individual. A group approach could help people share experiences and allow them to reflect on similarities and differences. The experience of voices can also sometimes rob the person of the concentration necessary to continue a conversation with others and the pejorative nature of the voices can reduce self-esteem and encourage social isolation. So, a group treatment may also help people increase their social support and to begin to test out both their beliefs and the negative evaluations of themselves.

In the research study, they randomly assigned people with schizophrenia who heard voices to either group CBT or a control group who received treatment as usual. They carried out assessments at baseline, 10 weeks (post therapy) and 36 weeks (six months following therapy). They found that there was improvement in social functioning after the end of therapy but there was no general effect of group CBT on the severity of hallucinations. However, improvements in hallucinations were associated with receiving therapy early in the trial and having very experienced therapists.

So, overall this study found that group CBT does improve social functioning but unless therapy is provided by experienced CBT therapists hallucinations are not reduced. This study provides some encouragement for the application of group CBT in the US which would be a welcome treatment method in the US since it can help many people with schizophrenia, especially with social functioning.

Schizophr Res. 2005 May 7; [Epub ahead of print]
Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London, United Kingdom.
Click here to find this article on PubMed


Post a comment

Please enter this code to enable your comment -
Remember Me?
(you may use HTML tags for style)
* indicates required