January 13, 2006

Family bonds Boost Recovery

Read more... Schizophrenia Coping

The Schizophrenia Digest is an excellent magazine focused on schizophrenia coping (started by William J. MacPhee). Following is an example of the types of stories they cover - from a recent backissue:

Family Bonds Boost Recovery

Janet D.Grossman, a retired schoolteacher who lives in Sag Harbor on Long Island, recalls a visit that she made with her son, Kurt, to meet a new therapist.

"It was before his first hospitalization. He was 19 then and at a point when he was acting wild, driving at night while wearing dark glasses," she says. "We all went to see this therapist together, Kurt and my husband and me. She kept pushing Kurt with all kinds of questions. He didn’t want to talk. He ended up jumping out the window."

Thankfully, he didn’t go far. "It turned out that there was some kind of balcony there," Janet explains. "Kurt knew that but my husband and I didn’t."

Kurt reacted strongly to an intrusive line of questioning from a person he didn’t even know.His action underscores a recurring theme in the discussion about communication between consumers and their caregivers—what approaches work effectively and which don’t.And if
even a trained professional doesn’t always know the difference, how do families find ways to reconnect with their loved ones without pushing them away?

Just as everyone needs a sense of adequate personal space, so do people with schizophrenia. However, consumers often have heightened sensitivities that mean they need more space and a slower, more measured approach to communications than other people.

A Basis for Hope

Dr. Robert Paul Liberman is a distinguished professor of psychiatry at the University of California at Los Angeles, where he focuses on communications issues that affect people with severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia.

Social or communication skills are, he says,“extraordinarily important as a protective factor against disability and for recovery. Fortunately, social skills can be learned. Even the most severely
disabled persons can make some degree of improvement in … communicating their needs, desires and feelings."

"The level of a person’s social communication skills is one of the most important predictors of how well a person with a mental disorder does during his or her lifetime coping with their disorder—no matter how serious that disorder is," Dr. Liberman says.

Protective factors such as social competence, a calm and supportive
family environment, the right medication and access to the full range of proven support services can help people with schizophrenia live more satisfying lives.

Having these elements in place eventually helped Kurt establish a stable life. Though he dropped out of the prestigious college he’d been attending when he first fell ill, he earned an associate’s degree in computer technology and has worked in that field.

Communication problems arose when he worked, though, and these led him to make frequent job changes. He is now on disability but he hasn’t let that stall his recovery. Kurt participates regularly in
activities at a mental health center called The Clubhouse and lives in his own apartment.

Read Full Story: Family Bonds Boost Recovery (PDF file)


My son, Jeff has scizpohrenia, and has had the illness for about 5 years. He tried to committ suicide 3 times during that time frame. Within the last year he has moved out on his own and his illness has gotten much "better". He is more calm and thinks things thru (most of the time) before reacting. Jeff is getting back to the old Jeff we knew! We still see him every other day to make sure he is O.K. he has enough food, taking his meds, etc etc. I posted a calendar beside his fridge which helps him tremendously with the "little" things that he has to remember. The stress level with family members has decreased significantly since he is getting better. We love Jeff more than anything and the support he gets is the most important thing for him! He has to know he's loved and that people do care!

Posted by: shirley at March 9, 2006 08:24 AM

I have a nephew that has schizophrenia and he is crying for help but my sister take him to the doctor and they tell her that he needs to agree that he has schizophrenia and that he needs to sign papers for him to admit him to any hospital but he says that there is nothing wrong with him that is his mom and dad. My sister crys and she said that it is breaking the family apart. Is there someone who she can get a hold of so they can help here.Thank you, Rosie

Posted by: Rosie Canchola at April 17, 2006 09:26 AM

I just found this article searching for "communication skills, schizophrenia" I have this illness as a suspected diagnosis. I am surprised to see how some of the symptoms are similar to what I experience: such as not looking a person in the eye when listening to them and not being able to handle more than one kind of sensory input at a time. I am glad to hear that "the level of a person's social communication skills is one of the most important predictors of how well a person with a mental disorder does during his or her lifetime coping with their disorder--no matter how serious that disorder is." That gives me some hope. God bless.

Posted by: anonymous at August 18, 2006 02:23 PM

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