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Treating mental illness with both dialogue and drugs

A trial is underway in Sydney to gather more evidence about the use of psychotherapy as an adjunct to drug treatment for serious mental illness.

The Health Psychology Unit of the University of Technology, Sydney is seeking participants aged 16 to 45 years for a study of the effectiveness of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) in assisting with recovery from a first episode of psychosis.

"Drugs have been the mainstay for treatment of schizophrenia, major depressive disorder, and bi-polar disorder for decades and still are," said Health Psychology Unit Director, Dr Antony Kidman.

"They've saved many lives and improved the quality of life of many people, but in spite of years of intensive treatment and research, there are still major problems – so-called side effects – associated with medications. They include weight gain, loss of pleasurable feelings, non-compliance, relapsing, sleep difficulties and muscle problems.

"CBT has been shown in a number of studies over the last decade to assist in the reduction of symptoms relating to motivation and procrastination, social skills deficits, self-worth, hearing of voices, isolation, relapse prevention and stigma.

"Psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia typically manifest in early adulthood and we believe there is a much better chance of a favourable outcome from combined psychotherapy and drug treatment if it is begun soon after a first episode of psychosis.

"These patients can face devastating effects on career prospects, intimate relationships, and may decline into poverty or homelessness. Psychotherapy is not magic but can make a significant difference in helping people to get back on their feet to reduce frequency of relapse and enhance their vocational prospects," Dr Kidman said.

Recruitment of participants for the study will continue throughout the year. The Health Psychology Unit is located on the ground floor, 174 Pacific Highway, St Leonards.

For further information contact Dr Antony Kidman or Yael Perry.

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