Psychoeducation is an important component of any psychotherapy program as well as any visit you have to the doctor. Psychoeducation, as the name suggests, is education about a certain situation or condition that causes psychological stress. This is not necessarily psychotherapy as it does not exclusively deal with psychological or mental illness' but rather any condition you or a relative or a friend is experiencing. For example breast cancer is not a mental illness however a person with breast cancer may feel anxious, disheartened and scared about their condition and therefore it is said that the cancer is bringing about psychological stressors. There are many ways to combat psychological stressors, one is learning about the condition. Once a person better understands a condition they feel more in control of the situation and this in turn reduces the stress associated with it.
Psychoeducation is usually implemented by a psychologist or anybody who is an expert in the specific condition the individual is experiencing and who has experience in psychotherapies. A medical doctor can also implement a degree of psychoeducation when they diagnose a disease or condition.
The list of conditions that benefit from psychoeducation is endless. The rule of thumb is that every person will feel more relaxed and in control of their condition if they have a greater level of understanding. People who are educated about their condition are more likely to actively participate in their self-management and relapse prevention. This brings about positive social and self-esteem changes which all add to the individual's self-efficacy and the accompanying benefits from other psychotherapies and medications.
Even if you do not feel an official psychoeducation program is necessary for you it is important that you do your own research into your own health and your family's health. If we all take the responsibility to learn about health related problems in our community we can reduce social stigma, promote awareness, prevent emergencies and reduce relapse.
Psychoeducation can be implemented in a number of different formats and settings. The format depends entirely on the disorder, the developmental age of the individual and their individual needs. Psychoeducational can be group-based, family-based, parent-based or individually implemented. Psychoeducation most commonly involves the individual with the disorder, the patient or client, but in some situations psychoeducation is implemented only to the people who deal with the patient on a day to day basis such as family, friends, teachers or caretakers.
Psychoeducation for any person that is experiencing psychological stressors and hardships due to a condition is vital. It is everybody's right to have information regarding their condition and therefore, no matter what their cognitive or psychological state, a degree of psychoeducation must be administered to everyone. If some education must be taught without the affected person present this should always be accompanied with a similar program for them so they are not left in the dark. These cases occur when the education required for the affected person needs to be delivered at a different level and incorporate different information than for the people who care for them. This is mainly the case for very young children and for severely mentally ill patients. The structure and topics of this format style will be discussed later.
Education about a condition is relevant not only to the individual with the problem, but also the people who share their life. Therefore psychoeducation programs for the whole family are commonly used; this can reduce stress at home and encourage better relationships between the family members. Psychoeducation works well in family situations as the therapists and family can brainstorm and discuss issues well together. Psychoeducation can be implemented for a number of families at the same time.
For young children and severely mentally ill clients, educating the family and/or parents at the same time as the client is often the most effective psychoeducation option. This way the learning can continue and evolve in the home. There are many issues about a condition your child may not understand. Psychoeducation can help you learn for your child so when they are ready you can explain the more complex concepts to them.
For many people with mental illness, especially adults, there is no family around to support them. Therefore psychoeducation programs for friends and caretakers have also been developed.
Throughout psychoeducation a no-blame concept is presented throughout. Many people feel despair when they are responsible for their condition for example substance abuse or emphysema after years of cigarette smoking, however having a guilty, self-defeated attitude will not help combat the problem. Psychoeducation conveys the concept that what is in the past stays there, now is time to learn about your condition and what ways to best manage it for your future.
When the individual with the condition (the patient) is not present, that is when only the family, peers or caregivers are attending the program; the main focus of the psychoeducation is on how to manage while looking after the individual, understanding their situation and hardships, preventing any relapse and how to provide them with support.
Remember that it is only when the patient is too young or cannot understand the information presented in psychotherapy that they would not be included in the program. Even if this is the case they should also be educated in very similar topics however these should be adapted to suit the developmental age of the individual so they can understand.
The common topics that will be focused on are as follows: