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Work therapy for schizophrenic patients: results of a 3-year prospective study in Germany.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Muenster, Germany.


Work therapy is a widespread form of sociotherapy. In contrast to pharmacological and somatic forms of treatment, proof of efficacy is difficult to produce in multimodal therapy of schizophrenic patients on account of the many methodological problems involved. Within the framework of an extensive study on the vocational rehabilitation of mentally ill patients, we carried out a naturalistic follow-up study of 83 schizophrenic patients attending outpatient work therapy. The sample, which comprised 44 men and 38 women with a mean age of 35 years (+/- 8.5 years), can be seen as regionally representative. The courses of illness and rehabilitation were documented prospectively at annual follow-ups over a 3-year period. Most of the probands were chronically mentally ill patients with a history of frequent and long-term hospitalisation. At the end of the 3-year period, 22% of the patients were integrated into the open labour market, 26% were working in sheltered employment, 23% were still in work therapy, and 29% were unemployed. Two-thirds had achieved their stated rehabilitation objectives. The 3-year rehabilitation outcome was strongly dependent on the patients' subjective expectations. Other factors proving to be predictors of successful rehabilitation were less pronounced psychopathological symptoms (ADMP), better social functioning (GAS), a higher level of education and an early introduction to work therapy. Work therapy appears to have a favourable impact on hospitalisation rates.

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