Over the last 25 years of work with adults suffering from schizophrenia in all of it’s manifestations, I’ve seen some wonderful turn-arounds. By turn-around, I’m speaking of individuals who either made full recoveries or who made unexpected improvements in their functioning.
Let’s consider two of the full recoveries (1). In both cases the clients resumed their previous vocational activity (students) and social functioning. They remained in some form of aftercare and continued to take low maintenance doses of antipsychotic medications; as of this writing they still do. Interestingly and not surprisingly, both were young women in the early twenties. Both experienced a sharp descent into psychosis which lasted about six months; during this time there was increasing paranoia, irritability, depression, and then florid psychosis leading to hospitalization. In one case, there was heavy use of marijuana as a way to self medicate away anxiety; predictably it had negative effects as well.
That’s the bad news. Now the good news.
Both of these women were fortunate to have parents who they were close with. Both had access to high quality hospitalization, well trained clinicians, and great aftercare. Both had social networks and extended family relationships so that their care didn’t fall only on their parents. Both had vocational arrangements which by law and basic human decency they could return to as they became more and more capable.
In addition to all of these blessings, both of these women participated in a ‘first break’ group, an educational program for young adults going through their first episode of severe psychiatric illness. Along with the manic, the severely depressed, and one soul terribly tortured by obsessions and compulsions, these two women learned skills to reduce stress, increase mastery, and intensify focus.
Cognitive therapy was an integral part of that.
More on that in my next post!
Shavua tov to all!
(1) Aside from the fact that I met both of these individuals while I worked in various day treatment programs in the United States, all of the details have been obscured.