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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2000;(2):CD000524.

Cognitive behaviour therapy for schizophrenia.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Psychology, School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, Edgbeston, Birmingham, UK, B15 2TT.

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Although medication is the mainstay of treatment for schizophrenia, always, some sort of informal or formal talking therapy is indicated. In cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) links are made between the person's feelings and patterns of thinking which underpin their distress.


To review the effects of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) for those with schizophrenia compared to standard care, specific medication and non-intervention; also to review the effects of CBT for those with schizophrenia who are concurrently receiving standard care compared to no additional intervention to standard care, specific medication, additional drug interventions to standard care and other additional psychosocial interventions to standard care.


Electronic searches of Biological Abstracts (1980-1998), CINAHL (1982-1998), The Cochrane Library (Issue 2, 1998), The Cochrane Schizophrenia Group's Register of Trials (August 1998), EMBASE (1980-1998), MEDLINE (1966-1998), PsycLIT (1887-1998), SIGLE (1990-1998), and Sociofile (1980-1998) were undertaken. All references of articles selected were searched for further relevant trials.


Randomised trials of cognitive behaviour therapy for people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, possible schizophrenia or mental illnesses where specific diagnoses have not been employed. Outcomes such as death, metal state, relapse, psychological well-being and acceptability of treatment were sought.


Studies were reliably selected and assessed for methodological quality. Data were extracted by two reviewers working independently. Dichotomous data were analysed on an intention-to-treat basis and continuous data with 70% completion rate are presented.


Four small trials were identified. All presented data suggested that there was a difference favouring CBT plus standard care over standard care alone in terms of reducing relapse rates (short term OR 0.31 CI 0.1-0.98; medium term OR 0.38 CI 0.17-0.83; long term OR 0.46 CI 0.26-0.83, NNT 6 CI 3-30). These findings were supported within the trials by scale-derived data. CBT, however, did not keep more people in care than a standard approach and there is no data relating to the effect of CBT on compliance with medication. One study also presented data on the effects of CBT when compared to supportive psychotherapy. No effect statistically significantly favoured either group but all were suggestive that the trial may have been underpowered to find an effect in favour of CBT.


The results of well conducted and reported ongoing trials are eagerly awaited. Currently, for those with schizophrenia willing to receive CBT, access to this treatment approach is associated with a substantially reduced risk of relapse. However, at present CBT is a fairly scarce commodity, often provided by highly skilled and experienced therapists. Therefore, its application in day to day practice may be restricted by the availability of suitable practitioners. Similarly, the present data provides little indication of how effective CBT procedures might be when they are applied by less experienced practitioners.

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