Psychoeducation: Process, Benefits, and Effectiveness
THC Editorial Team February 18, 2021
- What Is Psychoeducation?
- History of Psychoeducation
- How Does Psychoeducation Work?
- Effectiveness of Psychoeducation
- Conditions Commonly Addressed With Psychoeducation
- Potential Benefits of Psychoeducation
- Outlook and Future Directions
What Is Psychoeducation?
Psychoeducation is an evidence-based psychotherapeutic intervention that aims to develop an individual’s and their family’s knowledge and understanding of a mental health condition in order to improve their managing and coping abilities.1 Psychoeducation is a simple form of therapy; it does not require practitioners to have a highly developed theoretical background, it fits easily into the clinical setting, and it targets specific therapeutic goals.1
Practitioners who provide psychoeducation focus particularly on common denominators between therapy objectives, on textbook knowledge about mental conditions, and on client opinions about their treatment course.2 This type of intervention can be used as frequently as daily to encourage client responsibility, proactive care, and awareness and to reduce clients’ feelings of guilt, helplessness, and denial.1 Psychoeducation equips people and their families with the information and skills they need to cope with a variety of mental health conditions.
History of Psychoeducation
Researcher C. M. Anderson popularized and formally developed psychoeducation in the field of psychotherapy in 1980. Anderson proposed psychoeducation as a method of reducing relapse rates among patients with schizophrenia.3 In her study, Anderson focused on educating family members of patients about the symptoms of and treatments associated with schizophrenia, and her results demonstrated that this education reduced relapse rates.
Over the last few decades, many other models of psychoeducation have been established, and their effects on depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and other mental conditions have been studied.
How Does Psychoeducation Work?
Since the main focus of psychoeducation is the transfer of knowledge, no formal or prescriptive standards exist to determine how sessions should be conducted. Psychoeducational interventions can be delivered in various ways and in a number of settings. They may also vary in session length, number, and overall time span (months or years).4 However, psychoeducational sessions strongly emphasize teaching and only employ other therapeutic techniques, such as relaxation or breathing, in support of teaching activities.5
Objectives of Psychoeducation
The objectives of psychoeducation include the following:6
- informing clients and families about various aspects of the condition, including signs and symptoms, course, different outcomes, and prognosis
- debunking misconceptions about the condition and promoting awareness among the client and their family
- providing information regarding different treatment and medication options as well as their risks
- teaching families how to interact with the client and what to avoid during interactions
- drawing attention to early signs of relapse
- increasing the likelihood of integration of individuals with mental conditions into their home communities, specifically in terms of social and occupational functioning
Therapists who practice psychoeducation must be experts on the condition being addressed, and will likely be psychiatrists, psychologists, or nurses.1 Psychoeducational counseling can occur in individual or group sessions, but group sessions are more common. Group sessions can include multiple clients, a client and their family, or multiple clients and their families (multiple-family groups). Online self-help groups are also options.5 Online psychoeducation interventions consist of discussion forums, periodic modules, videoconferences, and/or interactive tasks.7
In addition to in-session interventions, psychoeductional therapists may give clients at home assignments to complete after sessions to further develop their learning. Within the psychoeducational framework, the client is considered ultimately responsible for implementing what they have learned.5
Psychoeducation equips people and their families with the information and skills they need to cope with a variety of mental health conditions.
Effectiveness of Psychoeducation
Many researchers consider psychoeducation therapy effective because it aligns with the medical model of illness, which emphasizes that mental conditions can be approached and treated like a physical conditions.1
In an academic review in 2014, researchers analyzed multiple meta-analyses and studies that were carried out from 1995 to 2012 to determine the efficacy of various psychoeducation models, such as consumer, family, and multifamily psychoeducation. The authors found a high level of effectiveness for each model, but results were not consistently significant. For example, family psychoeducation was found to be highly effective because it positively impacted numerous outcomes, including quality of life, relapse and rehospitalization rates, and family burden. They also determined that group psychoeducational interventions were especially beneficial because they reduced stigma and created a network of peer support.8
Psychoeducation in conjunction with pharmacotherapy and in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy result in greater effectiveness and improved outcomes compared to psychoeducation alone.8
A 2020 study involving 92 individuals who had previously received substance use disorder treatment found that a 10-session psychoeducation program improved participants’ relapse rates, social functioning, wellness, and stress levels.9
Additionally, a 2012 study involving participants with bipolar disorder found that internet-based psychoeducation resulted in improvements in participants’ quality of life, insight, personal routines, and attitudes toward medication, particularly for those who were recently diagnosed.7
Although psychoeducational interventions occur in many forms, research broadly indicates that people of varying ages, backgrounds, and interests can benefit.5
In regard to factors that play a role in the effectiveness of psychoeducation, length of intervention seems to be the only significant moderator.5 Contrary to what one might expect, a meta-analytic review determined that studies with shorter psychoeducational interventions obtained better results.5
Conditions Commonly Addressed With Psychoeducation
- psychological distress10
- bipolar disorder11
- schizoaffective disorder11
- attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder12
- substance use disorder9
Potential Benefits of Psychoeducation
Potential benefits of psychoeducation:
- reduces relapse rate and/or improves rehabilitation rate10
- significantly decreases burden and distress of families8,10
- reduces medication nonadherence and encourages positive attitude toward medication7,13
- reduces symptoms of mania13
- improves quality of life14
- improves social and global functioning14
- improves problem-solving abilities8
- improves self-management behaviors and self-care7,8
Outlook and Future Directions
Although many psychoeducational models exist, these interventions should be individualized for each client or family unit, taking into consideration particular patient characteristics and family dynamics.6 By developing psychoeducational interventions that are specifically tailored to individual needs, psychoeducation efficacy may be increased.
The field of psychoeducation could benefit from further studies on the effects of psychoeducational interventions for individuals with a wide range of conditions, such as personality disorders, phobias, and anxiety disorders. Notable factors that should be considered in future studies are duration of treatment, treatment setting, client age, family dynamics, and long-term impacts.8