CBT Less Effective for Schizophrenia
> 6/28/2009 10:35:49 PM

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a finite treatment model that’s grown extremely popular due to its recognized success in treating various behavioral disorders. It’s been touted as a potential short-term cure for nearly every mental illness, but new research raises serious doubts about its effectiveness in counteracting two major conditions: schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

In the wake of a government decision to provide taxpayer funds for the CBT treatment of major psychiatric disorders, a group of British researchers reviewed a series of controlled clinical studies designed to record the CBT responses of schizophrenic and bipolar subjects. The reports they considered grew from blind “psychological placebo” studies, which are tightly controlled and not subject to researcher bias because the participating researchers do not know which subjects have been placed in the placebo group.  Their results were conclusive: not a single study noted significant improvement in schizophrenic subjects treated with CBT. Statistics for test and placebo subject groups were nearly identical, meaning the CBT did not reduce general symptoms or prevent subsequent relapse rates.  The same pattern held true for bipolar disorder: few to none of the subjects treated for this disabling condition displayed significant improvement under the CBT plan.

In one slightly encouraging finding, researchers noted that CBT reduced relapse rates among subjects with major depression. In other words, severely depressed individuals who’d improved under alternate plans were less likely to fall back into depression if treated with CBT. This occurred despite the fact that CBT recovery rates for depressed subjects were discouragingly low. It would appear that CBT is more effective as a follow-up treatment for depression that’s already been treated with medication and personal therapy.

This report does not diminish the overall merits of cognitive behavioral therapy. Countless studies concerning serious disorders such as OCD, social anxiety and substance abuse lend credence to the portrait of CBT as a very effective short-term plan for minor behavioral disorders. But individuals suffering from major disruptive mental health problems may need to look elsewhere.

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