A controlled trial of a counselling intervention for caregivers of relatives with schizophrenia

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The effectiveness of short-term interventions to reduce caregiver ‘burden’ has not been clearly demonstrated. This study assessed the value of six weekly sessions of counselling for key relatives of patients with schizophrenia. The counselling had educational and problem-solving components and was conducted in the family home in the absence of the patient. A randomised controlled design was used. The subjects were the principal caregivers of patients consecutively admitted to acute psychiatric care. Assessments were made pre-treatment and at 3 and 6 months. Of 63 relatives recruited, 47 completed all phases of the study. Relatives in the intervention group reported that they were better able to understand the patient and had a more positive relationship. There were no differences between the intervention and control groups on negative aspects of caregiving or in coping style. Relatives who received the counselling reported slightly greater psychological morbidity at follow-up. However, they all said they would recommend it to others. We concluded that a brief, intensive counselling intervention was of modest benefit to caregivers. Some modifications are suggested.