CBT for schizophrenia questioned

A type of talking therapy which is offered to all patients with schizophrenia has "little impact" on the symptoms of the illness, researchers have concluded.

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A study claims cognitive behavioural therapy has only has a small therapeutic effect when used to treat schizophrenia

A type of talking therapy which is offered to all patients with schizophrenia has "little impact" on the symptoms of the illness, researchers have concluded.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) recommends that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) should be offered to all patients with the disorder. But a new study has found that the psychotherapy only has a "small therapeutic effect".

The team of researchers questioned whether or not the therapy should continue to recommended to help people with the condition.

Their paper, published online in the British Journal of Psychiatry, said that the " vigorous advocacy " of the treatment is "puzzling" after analysis of 50 studies on the subject.

The authors wrote: "Should CBT for schizophrenia continue to be recommended in clinical practice?

"Given that we, and others including Nice, have found evidence for only small effects on overall symptoms, plus the fact that a large, methodologically rigorous 2008 trial failed to demonstrate any effectiveness against relapse, the UK G overnment's continued vigorous advocacy of this form of treatment might be considered puzzling.

"Our finding of non-significant effects on positive symptoms in a relatively large set of 21 masked studies also suggests that claims that CBT is effective against these symptoms of the disorder are no longer tenable."

Schizophrenia is experienced by around one in 100 people in the UK. It is a long-term mental health condition that causes a range of different psychological symptoms, including hallucinations, delusions, muddled thoughts and changes in behaviour .

One of the researchers, Keith Laws, professor of cognitive neuropsychology at the University of Hertfordshire, said: "This study is a new meta-analysis of CBT in the treatment of schizophrenia. It is the most comprehensive study of its effect on symptoms ever undertaken - covering fifty randomised controlled trials published over the last twenty years.

"We even translated papers from foreign languages, such as Chinese - so our study covers everything worthy of examination.

"With this evidence, the current Government policy which mandates this treatment for all patients with schizophrenia in England and Wales needs to be reconsidered."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: ''Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, along with other treatments, has proven to be beneficial to patients with schizophrenia.

''Our policy to make this treatment available for anyone who can benefit from it follows recommendations from Nice, based on a rigorous examination of evidence.''