How Psychoeducation Is Used in Therapy

therapist talking to their client

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Psychoeducation is a therapy intervention that involves the therapist providing their client with information about their diagnosis, symptoms, or the method of treatment used. It is more than simply sharing information with the client; psychoeducation refers to a structured and specific method of providing knowledge.

The goal of psychoeducation is to help the client understand and cope with their diagnoses as well as improve treatment adherence, as clients who understand their treatment are better able to follow through on recommendations.

When Did Psychoeducation Become Important in Psychology?

Early psychotherapies did not emphasize client education. It was not considered important to educate the client about their diagnosis because the therapist is the expert, not the client. However, this view has become dated, as many therapists currently recognize the client’s expertise in their own life and experience.

Physicians began using psychoeducation to help clients understand their treatment and improve adherence in the early 1900s. In mental health, the researcher C M Anderson first introduced using psychoeducation with clients diagnosed with schizophrenia. The research looked at the impact of providing education to family members to improve treatment outcomes.

Although this research emphasized teaching family members rather than clients directly, this intervention marked a shift in treatment approaches by making the family members active participants in treatment.

Types of Psychoeducation

Depending on the type of treatment and specific goals, psychoeducation can take on different forms.

Most providers will educate clients about their diagnosis and expected course of treatment, including any potential risks they can expect.

Psychoeducation can also mean teaching clients specific coping skills that they can use to manage their symptoms. When developing coping skills, clients can follow through and use skills successfully if they understand why the skill might be helpful and how it works.

A therapist can provide psychoeducation to family members when appropriate. For example, if the client is a child, therapists often educate parents about appropriate discipline or how the child’s symptoms might interfere with their learning.

Parents might not recognize how their parenting style contribute to the child’s mental health or behavioral concerns, and psychoeducation can help them develop appropriate and effective skills.

Is Psychoeducation Effective?

Psychoeducation is an important component of treatment, as it has been found to improve treatment outcomes for a wide variety of diagnoses.

Although research is still emerging, psychoeducation has been linked to improved treatment compliance and outcomes for stress, depression, and anxiety. Furthermore, psychoeducation has been found to improve social skills and behavior management in people with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

For clients with schizophrenia, a combination of mindfulness and psychoeducational interventions can reduce psychotic symptoms, improve insight and reality testing, and increase attention and emotion regulation.

How Psychoeducation Helps the Client

In addition to symptom improvement, psychoeducation as an intervention has been shown to improve client adherence to treatment protocols. This is because clients are more likely to follow through with recommendations when they understand why the provider made that recommendation and specifically how that recommendation may help them. They also have the opportunity to ask questions, and the provider can alleviate fears the client has about the recommendation.

Not only is psychoeducation an effective treatment on its own, research suggests that it is comparable to other evidence-based therapy interventions.

In fact, some research found that a psychoeducation control group was more effective in alleviating symptoms in individuals with bipolar disorder compared to cognitive-behavioral therapy.

How Psychoeducation Is Used in Therapy

When a provider diagnoses a client, they should also educate the client about their diagnosis, how the diagnosis accounts for the symptoms that brought them for treatment, and what their treatment options are.

Psychoeducation allows the client to collaborate with their provider and develop an appropriate treatment plan based on their symptoms as well as their unique life experience and needs.

Psychoeducation is often used as a component of motivational interviewing, a client-centered and evidence-based therapy intervention. In motivational interviewing, the therapist helps the client articulate their understanding of the problem and provides education about the possible consequences as well as how to make manageable, sustainable changes.

Motivational interviewing is collaborative and involves helping the client identify their level of willingness to change and what resources they have that can support these changes. It also emphasizes identifying specific, measurable, and attainable goals that fit with the client’s values.

Psychoeducation Empowers the Client

When a therapist uses psychoeducation with a client, they are not telling the client what they must do or even what they ought to do. Instead, psychoeducation involves giving the client accurate information about their diagnosis and treatment options. The client can use this information to make their own decision about how they will engage with their care.

Once the client has this information, they might not choose the treatment options that the therapist thinks are best. Instead of pushing the client to do what the therapist thinks is best, psychoeducation empowers the client to make their own decisions about how to move forward.

Impact of Psychoeducation

Clients who are armed with accurate information and knowledge are in a position to make decisions about their care, and clients who are empowered to make these decisions for themselves will be able to continue advocating for themselves even after therapy has ended.

Psychoeducation is not a one-time conversation. Clients might have more questions as new symptoms emerge or as their situation changes. The client should feel comfortable asking questions and feel that the therapist will provide them with accurate information in a non-judgmental environment.

Psychoeducation Limits Misinformation From Non-Reputable Sources

Educating clients about their diagnosis and treatment options can prevent them from finding incorrect or harmful information from disreputable sources.

After receiving a diagnosis, many people want to know more and understand, which can lead them to search the internet for information. It can be difficult to vet sources this way, and misinformation is rampant. Appropriate psychoeducation can prevent this.

Finally, psychoeducation can build the therapeutic relationship. Clients learn that they can trust their therapist to provide them with accurate information as well as listen to and address their concerns. This connection and trust are the foundation for progress in treatment.

9 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Amy Marschall, PsyD
Dr. Amy Marschall is an autistic clinical psychologist with ADHD, working with children and adolescents who also identify with these neurotypes among others. She is certified in TF-CBT and telemental health.