There are two types of psychological therapy used to treat schizophrenia, behavioural therapy and cognitive therapy.
This treatment is based upon operant conditioning, the idea that we learn through reward and punishment. By giving ‘tokens’ to patients who show socially desirable behaviour the schizophrenics are rewarded for behaving normally. The aim is that the patient should learn what behaviour is normal, and what is not.
Ayllon and Azrin found schizophrenics increased from 5 to 40 ‘chores’ of normal behaviour after partaking, this supports the view that token economy can help reduce schizophrenic behaviour.
However, token economy only really exists in institutions, such as mental health hospitals. Once the patient leaves for the real world nobody will carry on the treatment.
Also, the patients’ behaviour might be superficial; they only behave in a normal way as they know they will receive a reward, and then revert back to schizophrenic behaviour the rest of the time.
Cognitive behavioural therapy
CBT assumes that we can help schizophrenia by teaching the patients to recognise and change their ‘faulty cognitions’. There are several ways CBT aims to do this; one technique getting the patients’ reality-test their hallucinations and delusions. This attempts to show the schizophrenic that their cognitions are incorrect, so they might learn to correct them.
A positive of CBT is that it puts the power in the hands of patient, as it equips them with what they need to fight schizophrenia.
Senksy et al found that CBT was effecting for patients for whom drug treatment hadn’t worked. Also Senksy found it helped with both positive and negative symptoms, and patients continued to improve after the therapy course had finished.
However, CBT only treats the symptoms of schizophrenia; it doesn’t actually deal with the cause.
Also, many patients become dependent on their therapist, and can relapse if they don’t have regular sessions.