November 19, 2007

New Video Therapy Helps Schizophrenia Patients Improve Social Skills

Several weeks ago, we discussed a video therapy that helps people with schizophrenia improve their social skills. [Read Past Story Here.] Following is more information on this new therapy in more detail:

A news story recently published on ABC's web site discusses an innovative new therapy designed to help people with schizophrenia better understand their social interactions with other people. The therapy, called Social Interaction and Cognition Training or SCIT, is the original idea of David Roberts, a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Having spent several years working with schizophrenia inpatients, Roberts "began to wonder whether they were appreciating television the way he did." He noticed that though the patients he was around usually had a flat affect, i.e., a blank expression, they displayed some emotion while watching TV. For example, Roberts noticed that while watching television, some of the patients with schizophrenia reacted with "smirks, winces, and even the occasional chuckle."

Roberts took this observation to his advisor, and together, they developed SCIT. At first, Roberts began by showing patients clips of the HBO show, "Curb Your Enthusiasm." Roberts believes this was a good choice because the show had what he calls "appropriate scenes" for the patients. Roberts and his advisor also developed their own skits, which consisted mainly of social situations that they acted out and videotaped. The social situations were intended to leave someone who experienced them "...feeling kind of bad, frustrated, confused, (or) guilty..."

"It turned out that patients responded just as well to the homemade videos...I think we succeeded in capturing awkwardness and discomfort in a way that may not have been as comedic as the shows, but was probably more true to life," Roberts said. "Also, we were able to fashion our scenes to hit exactly the notes that we wanted."

SCIT, which focuses on enabling schizophrenia patients to have an increased understanding of social situations, has so far, proven to be quite effective:

Pilot testing with 18 inpatients demonstrated SCIT therapy improved emotion perception, ability to understanding people's intentions, and reduced the tendency to attribute hostile intent to others. Patients were also less likely to act out in an aggressive way.

Still, more research is needed to demonstrate SCIT's effectiveness. Nevertheless, the promise this therapy provides for the improved socialization of schizophrenia patients is remarkable. Several patients at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill who received the therapy commented on its positive effects. Here are a couple of their comments:

Comment 1: "I used to think people were laughing at me when I came into the room. Now I know they're not."

Comment 2: "SCIT has helped me become more effective in interpersonal interactions by teaching the difference between facts and guesses, helpful and harmful feelings, the importance of non-verbal communication (which is responsible for fully 70 percent of social interchange), and the necessity of recognizing the difference between thinking and knowing."

One researcher stated the importance of a therapy like SCIT. She said, often people with psychological problems stop developing social skills early on because they have already begun to experience some of the symptoms of their illness. As a result, a therapy that focuses specifically on increasing their understanding of social situations and further developing their social skills is highly useful.

Read the Full Story: New Non-Drug Therapy Promising for People with Schizophrenia (ABC News)


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