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Finding the Right Treatment Team

Navigating the mental health system can be difficult. Appointments alone can be overwhelming and intimidating, but a patient and their caregivers can effectively self-advocate by preparing ahead of time and finding an effective team of allies.

First and foremost, patients and their family members should feel heard and understood by their treatment team. Finding an individualized team of mental health professionals is somewhat like dating; patients must emotionally “put themselves out there” to find an appropriate match, and that’s not easy. Not every first date leads to a second, let alone marriage!

As a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, I find it most rewarding to work with adults and family members who are actively involved in both the development and execution of the schizophrenia treatment plan. It’s helpful when patients provide a list of their medications, symptoms, and questions for us to discuss and prepare for their next doctor’s visit. There are tools available, like the resources on the Choices in Recovery website, that are designed to help adults to take control of the direction of their mental health treatment.

To create an individualized treatment plan, the mental health team needs to have an understanding of who the patient is, which includes their mental health history, current life situation, and unique future goals. Achieving these future goals is dependent on patients being fully forthcoming as it relates not only to their adherence to the treatment plan, including medications, but also to any potential concerns or reservations. 

Part of taking control is acknowledging that people can forget to take their medication, including adults living with schizophrenia. When I’m with a patient who is experiencing difficulty with their treatment plan, we discuss daily habits and routines. I urge all adults living with schizophrenia to not give up on treatment, despite potential frustration and discouragement, as we work together to find a treatment plan that fits their unique symptom profile and needs.

When working together on a treatment plan, we discuss supportive therapies and treatment options, including once-monthly injections which can help delay another episode. It may be daunting to continue to search for the right treatment combination after ending a less-than-successful one, but achieving improved mental health is well worth the challenge, and a change in a schizophrenia treatment plan could make a difference.

Persistence and patience are vital skills for adults living with schizophrenia, caregivers, and members of the treatment team. Going through the lengthy process of  trying multiple medications before finding one that works for you and at the correct dose may feel discouraging and frustrating, and it is in these moments that it is most necessary to speak up about one’s treatment.

Most important, a patient’s expression of these feelings, coupled with their treatment team’s receptiveness, can instill hope, a necessary ingredient in the human experience. Hope regenerates through connectedness, and it is through reaching out and staying open to the processes of change and growth that people can find the pathway back to a sense of potential and possibility in their life.

See other stories from adults living with schizophrenia and caregivers who are sharing their stories in order to #ChangeSchizophreniaExpectations. 

Hannah has partnered with Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., to share her story. She has been paid an honorarium for her time.

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