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Schizophrenia can be a very intense and scary experience for both the sufferer and their family and friends.  The good news is that it can often times be successfully treated with medication.  The difficult part of treatment is getting the individual who is suffering to consistently take their medication. 

Individuals who suffer from schizophrenia struggle with accepting their hallucinations (hearing things and seeing things) are not real.  This is because the hallucinations are just as real to them as hearing or seeing you. Think about it.  How likely are you to believe someone that is telling you the items around you right now are not really there?  Not likely, right?  This is one of the first major hurdles of getting someone with schizophrenia to accept help.

At this time, schizophrenia is best treated with medication and counseling.  Because scientist and doctors still know very little about the chemicals in our brains, finding the right medication can take time.  Once a medication begins to work, sufferers may not like the way it makes them feel and/or they feel as though others are controlling them, changing them, through the use of medication.  These factors lead to many people not taking their medicine as prescribed, which in turn causes successful treatment to take longer to achieve.  This is where counseling can really help. 

In counseling, I help my clients who suffer from schizophrenia understand the biology behind the disorder.  I educate my clients on how neurotransmitters in their brain work and normalize their experience of seeing and hearing things.  I teach them the importance of taking their medication consistently and inform them of the dangers of stopping their medication without their doctor’s approval.  I then help them discover ways of distinguishing their hallucinations from reality.  I also help them find ways of lessening the occurrence and intensity of the hallucinations.  Lastly, I work with their family and friends to help them understand why their loved one is struggling and what they can do to help them. 

Overall, schizophrenia can be a disabling disorder.  However, with consistent psychiatric care and supportive counseling, individuals who have the disorder can live a successful life.  The key to their success lies in their willingness or ability to get help and receiving support, non-judgment, and unconditional love from their family and friends.

Additional resources can be found at:

Heather N. Smith, M.Ed., Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor

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