NPR features a story about early, mostly psychological/behavioral, interventions for teens with possible symptoms of schizophrenia on 10-20-14. “Halting Schizophrenia Before It Starts” describes a few teens who were at risk, were enrolled in unique programs and appear to be functioning well as a result. The article describes the “prodromal” phase of possible schizophrenia symptoms, the challenges of accurately diagnosing teens with these symptoms, and research in support of using psychological/behavioral interventions.
The programs described use psychotropic medication conservatively, and focus on helping the child with coping skills, particularly social skills and reducing social isolation, and helping the parents and family help the child. There is particular focus on reducing the stress in the family, based on research done at UCLA which finds that “families that don’t communicate well, or are overly critical …can make things worse for a young person at risk of schizophrenia.”
The article also notes, “When you talk to people who have been through these programs and ask them what helped them, it is not the drugs, not the diagnosis. It’s the lasting, one-on-one relationships with adults who listen…”
The article also includes quotes from Allen Francis, MD, brief discussion about DSM-5 issues, and interesting interviews with young people and their families who participated in the programs.
The article is available for free online.