What Caregivers Need to Know About Schizophrenia Treatment

What caregivers need to know about treating schizophrenia, including medications, therapy, and social support.

Various medications on a blue background.

Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that interferes with a person’s ability to interpret reality. While there is no cure for schizophrenia, treatment can help control symptoms, keep symptoms from getting worse, and improve the quality of life of a person living with the condition. Treatment for schizophrenia typically involves a combination of medication, therapy, and psychosocial support.

People with schizophrenia often experience disordered thoughts, speech, and behaviors. These symptoms can make it challenging to take medications consistently and communicate with healthcare providers. Many people with schizophrenia require help from a caregiver or care-partner—a loved one who helps them navigate treatment and the day-to-day challenges of living with schizophrenia.

Neuroleptic medications

Medications are a mainstay of treatment for schizophrenia. The medications prescribed are called neuroleptic drugs (but are also known as antipsychotics). These medications act on hormone receptors in the brain. In people who have schizophrenia, this helps relieve and control symptoms of psychosis.

There are numerous neuroleptic medications available. The exact medications used and the dosages of those medications will vary from person to person, and a person may try several medications before finding one that works well for them. Once a medication is working, it will need to be taken consistently and as directed. This will help keep symptoms under control and prevent episodes where symptoms get worse.

An important aspect of treating schizophrenia with neuroleptic medications is monitoring for and managing side effects. Side effects can include drowsiness, weight gain, and involuntary movements. A healthcare provider can help address these side effects—which is one of the reasons that keeping in regular contact with a healthcare team is so essential to schizophrenia treatment.


Working with a mental health professional is another essential component of treating schizophrenia. Treatment for schizophrenia is typically overseen by a psychiatrist—a medical doctor who specializes in the treatment of mental health disorders. A psychiatrist can prescribe medications as well as provide therapy. Different approaches to therapy may be used, depending on a person’s needs.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy offers coping techniques for symptoms that may not be reduced by medication alone.
  • Supportive psychotherapy provides a space for a person to discuss concerns, frustrations, and questions about their diagnosis and treatment. It can also help identify ways to improve quality of life.
  • Cognitive enhancement therapy promotes cognitive capabilities, such as memory, critical thinking, and concentration. This can help a person gain confidence in their abilities.

A psychiatrist can also help treat substance use disorders, which are common among people with schizophrenia.

Psychosocial support

Psychosocial support refers to programs and services that can help a person with schizophrenia maintain independence and navigate the practical aspects of living with a serious mental illness. This is another important aspect of treatment and may include:

  • Financial assistance and help with creating a budget
  • Housing and employment programs
  • Crisis services that offer 24-hour care
  • Social skills training
  • Support groups for people with schizophrenia

Culturally competent care for schizophrenia

The risk of schizophrenia and the experience of living with schizophrenia can vary significantly from one community to another. People who are a part of America’s BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) communities are more likely to encounter stigma, misdiagnosis, and difficulty accessing care when seeking treatment for a mental health disorder.

Schizophrenia is a condition that impacts every aspect of a person’s life, and treating schizophrenia is a lifelong process. It’s important to work with healthcare providers who acknowledge and respect diverse experiences in the world—including beliefs, values, and life experiences—and how these factors can impact the management of schizophrenia.

For example, working with providers who have a similar background to your own and/or providers who treat people who have a similar background to your own. The term for this is culturally competent care.

Overall health

In addition to focusing on these aspects of treatment, people with schizophrenia should also focus on overall health—and this is an area where caregivers can have a positive impact. Overall health refers to habits such as eating well, exercising regularly, keeping up with preventive care (such as annual exams and dentist appointments) getting enough sleep, and avoiding habits that are harmful to health, such as smoking, consuming alcohol, and substance use.

Remember that treating schizophrenia is an ongoing process, and treatment plans will evolve with time. Your best source of information is your loved one’s healthcare provider.

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