Although people with schizophrenia are often prescribed antipsychotic medications, many report that their symptoms remain distressing despite the use of medication. Because of this, researchers have become increasingly interested in psychosocial therapy, which can be thought of as “talk therapy”. The use of psychosocial training as supplemental treatment to medication has been recognized for playing a vital role in therapy by helping decrease the negative effects of mental illnesses, including schizophrenia.
Steffen Moritz, Ph.D., of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf and Todd Woodward, Ph.D., of the University of British Columbia have developed a relatively new type of cognitive therapy termed metacognitive training, which has recently been found to decrease delusions in patients with schizophrenia and improve their quality of life when applied over longer periods of time.
Developing New Thought Patterns
Metacognitive training, in addition to medication, helps alleviate psychotic symptoms by helping patients develop new thought patterns that may have previously led to delusions. This is achieved by having patients think about their thought patterns, making them aware of distortions in the way they think (i.e. maintaining false beliefs although presented with contradicting evidence). In other words, metacognitive training quite literally asks patients to think about thinking. Patients are then helped to modify their old thinking patterns through guided exercises.
Dr. Moritz and Dr. Woodward teamed up with Christina Andreou, M.D., Ph.D., of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, and Mahesh Menon, Ph.D., of the University of British Columbia to investigate the effect of metacognitive training in patients with schizophrenia.
How The Study Worked
According to their study, which was published in JAMA Psychiatry on August 6th, 150 patients with schizophrenia who were currently taking antipsychotic medications were randomly assigned to receive either group metacognitive training or a control group training that focused on improving other cognitive factors such as attention and memory. After intervals of four weeks, six months, and three years, it was determined that at all three time points, patients in the metacognitive training group demonstrated fewer delusions than patients who received the control group training. Additionally, patients who received metacognitive training for three years or longer improved significantly on a self-assessment of their quality of life and self-esteem.
Given this evidence for the benefits of metacognitive training in patients with schizophrenia, researchers suggest that cognitive therapy should be considered part of routine interventions.