Lots of psychology terms have become very popular with all the new self-help books that have come out. In my local bookstore there is even an entire section called ‘’Popular Psychology’’. One of the terms that has been reasonably popular is psychoeducation. Psychoeducation is not the name of the curriculum for psychologists. If it’s not that then what exactly is and what is psychoeducation used for? Let me explain the importance of psychoeducation and why you definitely need psychoeducation.
- What Is Psychoeducation?
- What is the purpose of psychoeducation?
- What Are The Different Types of psychoeducation?
- Who Can Provide Psychoeducation?
- Who Should Get Psychoeducation?
- What Are The Benefits Of Psychoeducation
What Is Psychoeducation?
The definition of psychoeducation is a therapeutic intervention where patients and loved ones get a detailed explanation about the mental illness or mental health problem that the patient is facing.
Hamed Ekhtiari et al. described psychoeducation as an intervention with systematic, structured, and didactic knowledge transfer for an illness and its treatment, integrating emotional and motivational aspects to enable patients to cope with the illness and to improve its treatment adherence and efficacy.
I bring this description of what psychoeducation is to your attention because the description includes a lot of factors that come up in psychoeducation therapy. Let me break down a few of the concepts stated in the description and definition above inorder to make sure you fully understand what psychoeducation is.
There are three parts to psychoeducation according to H. Ekhtiari et al. their definition. The first part is the fact that psychoeducation is systematic, structured and didactic. In essence this means that there is an appointment set with a mental health professional where the illness the patient is facing will be explained.
The second part of the definition of psychoeducation is the integration of emotional and motivational aspects. Here is where the focus shifts from simply thoroughly explaining what the illness is to also including the patient and their experience and feeling with the illness as well the third perspective of the family’s experience.
The last but certainly not least is the part about coping with the illness and potentially improving treatment adherence and efficacy. This is where the future perspective comes into play. By getting everyone aligned with the same information the discussing treatment and everyone’s stake and responsibility in it becomes easier.
What is the purpose of psychoeducation?
The purpose of psychoeducation is to inform the people surrounding the patient what exactly is going on with their friend, partner and/or family. By giving this psychoeducation the goal is to help the system cope better with what is going on with the patient.
It is one thing to have the patient telling their loved ones what they need but it is completely different hearing this from a professional. This could indeed have something to do with the weight the family and friends give to the psychologist however whether that is the main reason I leave for each of you to decide.
The most important purpose of psychoeducation is that the mental health professional that the patient is seeing should be able to also cater to the difficulties that arise with the new desires of the patient. It’s important to address that having to change the relationship with someone because of mental health problems is a two sided affair.
We deem it logical that the family have to take the wants and needs of the one suffering in account but vice versa is true as well. Now of course the extent to which this can happen is not immediately going to be as balanced and give & take as one would expect in any other relationship. It’s exactly this that the psycheducation has to catch and mediate to make sure that both parties understand what is going on and find a way forward that suits everybody and not just the patient.
What Are The Different Types of psychoeducation?
Even though psychoeducation is a singular concept it has many forms in which it can happen. Here are the most common forms of psychoeducation.
Group psychoeducation can happen in two ways. One of the ways group psychoeducation can happen is exclusively for the patients suffering from the same mental illness or mental health problem. In such a setting they would get explanations about what their illness or problem is and can also ask general questions.
Another way group psychoeducation can happen is with the families of the patients present. This can be with or without the patient themselves present. The families then usually get a pretty broad range of information regarding the illness or problem of the patients in order to cover as many specific aspects as possible. Just to be clear this is not family psychoeducation. This is with multiple different families together getting psychoeducation at the same time because they are confronted with the same illness.
It is important to note that group sessions cannot always go into specific details of each person’s illness as the rule remains true that even though they have the same diagnosis the way the illness/problem manifests can be completely different for each person.
Individual psychoeducation therapy can happen within the regular sessions but that is not always the case. Before I continue I want to make clear that psychoeducation not happening within the sessions doesn’t mean that the patient doesn’t get any information regarding their illness from their direct care provider. It could be that the clinic or professional has special programs for psychoeducation or special person’s giving psychoeducation for example. Either way it is not necessarily a bad thing.
Individual psychoeducation usually is completely catered to the patient. They can get specific information about their illness and ask questions pertaining exclusively to them.
In family psychoeducation the family comes along with the patient to receive psychoeducation. This can be in a session setting but can also be simply informational. More often than not the patient is not present for a couple of the sessions to allow the family to speak about things that they might be uncomfortable asking or saying in front of the patient. This way they can speak as freely as possible in order to get to a much needed understanding. After a few sessions with just family the patient can also joins and they continue the path all together.
Who Can Provide Psychoeducation?
Psychoeducation can be provided by the person the patient is seeing but can also sometimes be given by third party groups affiliated with the clinic or professional. Specific people that can give psychoeducation are:
Mental Health Nurses Practitioners
Who Should Get Psychoeducation?
Au contraire to what you might believe at first glance psychoeducation is actually more for the people surrounding the person with mental health problems than the person with the problems. This is because the patient generally is supposed to get all information regarding their illness from their practitioner no matter whether this is a psychologist or a psychiatrist for example. Understanding your own illness is quasi always a part of the plan towards health, if it is not the very first step.
The family and friends, also called the system, are the ones who should more often than not get psychoeducation. This might seem weird as you would expect the patient themselves to explain everything. This does happen in most cases but it can be a very complicated process.
For starters the patient might not be feeling all that well so explaining something new that not everyone might understand immediately could be complicated. Another reason why the family usually needs the psychoeducation more is because they might not be getting any information because the relationship with the patient has gotten complicated due to the mental health problems.
Mind you psychoeducation is not therapy! Even though the system would be going to see a mental health professional this doesn’t mean that they are necessarily in therapy. The reason for the psychoeducational sessions are very much in function of the patient even when the issues that the system has is being discussed.
What Are The Benefits Of Psychoeducation
A few of the benefits of psychoeducation have been mentioned already throughout the post. The benefits that are being discussed now really zoom in on why psychoeducation is important and it should be brought into the picture more. In other words why friends, families and other loved ones should take up the offers of their loved one with mental health issues to go to a psychoeducation session with them.
6 Benefits Of Psychoeducation
- Proper understanding of the illness
This one is really on the nose as it has been mentioned a bunch of times already. One of the benefits of psychoeducation is a chance to properly understand the illness but not only that. It is also a chance to ask awkward questions and get honest answers that are actually helpful. It is a chance for the system, in other words the loved ones of the patient, to get crystal clear what exactly is going on and what is going to happen in the future.
- Getting clarity on the needs & wants of everyone involved
Besides learning about what exactly depression is for example, you can also learn what are important needs that need to be met to cope with the illness. These can be part of the explanation of the mental health professional in broad terminology, but can also be really specifically catered to the situation at hand.
As I said previously during one of the psychoeducational sessions the system also gets to talk and express what they would need and want.
- Future perspective for all
When both parties’ needs and wants are on the table next to accurate information about the illness it’s fairly simple to start talking about the future. In other words how can everyone collaborate to ensure improvement for the patient and not absolute chaos for the system.
- Open lines of communication
With so much information out in the open it finally gives room for the shut communication lines to open. Especially with a third neutral party present it creates an environment where everybody can talk freely and openly without the temperatures rising as can be the case when discussing sensitive topics.
- Better outcomes for patients
When the system better understands what is happening with the patient the patient generally has better outcomes in their therapy plan. This has been researched extensively. It has been proven that when the system is involved in a productive loving manner the outcomes for the patients tend to be better and more positive. The percentages in which the treatment’s efficacy go up depends on the illness at hand which means that I can’t give you specific numbers as they vary per illness.
- Not having to explaining everything in emotion as a patient
Getting a diagnosis and a lot of information about it can be super overwhelming. Being overwhelmed and also still probably at the very start of dealing with your mental health problems can make it hard to communicate all that needs to be said. Having to explain everything that you are barely coming to grips with can be really hard, really hard. Having the psychologist or other mental health professional explain it can be really beneficial in such a case. It’s not only an opportunity for the system to learn about the diagnoses but also for the patient to again get everything explained and jump in when they see fit instead of having to shoulder the conversation all alone.
It’s also beneficial for the patient because the family could come up with questions that they themselves might have not thought about due to emotion.
If you are considering psychoeducation for your system or even for yourself to learn more about certain mental health problems, direct the doubters to this post to show them the importance of psychoeducation and what a positive change psychoeducation can bring them. If you have any more questions feel free to contact me.
Psychoeducation is just as important as getting help for your mental health.
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