Conditions + Treatments

Treatments for Schizophrenia in Children

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It's entirely natural that you might be concerned right now about your child's health; a mental health problem like schizophrenia can be frightening. But you can rest assured that at Boston Children's Hospital, your child is in good hands.

How is schizophrenia treated at Children's?

Schizophrenia is a major psychiatric illness that calls for careful, often complex and lifelong treatment. A combination of therapies is usually necessary to effectively manage the disease.

Since there is no known cure for schizophrenia,treatment is aimed at reducing the severity of the disorder's impact on early life and helping the child manage symptoms.  Treatment is most successful when symptoms are addressed early on.

As one of the largest pediatric psychiatric services in New England, Children's has an experienced team of expert psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers ready to help you, your child and your family cope. Your Children's clinician will prescribe treatment methods that may include medication, psychotherapy, specialized educational or activity programs and support groups.

Medication

The use of medications (also called psychopharmacology) is essential in treating schizophrenia. The most commonly prescribed schizophrenia drugs are neuroleptics, or antipsychotic medications. These drugs act against the symptoms of schizophrenia, but cannot cure the disease itself.

Neuroleptics:

  • are primarily used to treat the pervasive, intrusive, and disturbing thoughts caused by schizophrenia
  • are designed to minimize the severity of hallucinations and delusions
  • must be taken exactly as prescribed
  • may require adjustments of dosage or type over time to maintain their effectiveness

Traditionally prescribed neuroleptics include:

  • Stelazine (Trifluoperazine)
  • Flupenthixol (Fluanxol)
  • Loxapine (Loxapac, Loxitane)
  • Perphenazine (Etrafon, Trilafon)
  • Chlorpromazine (Thorazine)
  • Haldol (Haloperidol)
  • Prolixin (Fluphenazine Decanoate, Modecate, Permitil)

Newer and less commonly prescribed medications that have proven effective in treating symptoms of schizophrenia include:

  • Aripiprazole (Abilify)
  • Clozaril (clozapine)
  • Geodon (ziprasidone)
  • Risperdal (resperidone)
  • Seroquel (Quetiapine)
  • Zyprexa (olanzapine)

Children's has a specialized Psychopharmacology Program whose team members work with other Department of Psychiatry clinicians—and with parents and family members—to determine the best medications for each child, incorporate the medication regimen into the child's overall treatment plan and monitor the effectiveness of the drugs over the long term.

Learn more about psychiatric medications for children and adolescents.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy—also known as “talk therapy”—is the cornerstone of psychiatric treatment at Children's.

Through sessions with a psychiatrist or psychologist At Boston Children's Hospital, your child can better:

  • understand the symptoms of schizophrenia and how to manage them
  • vocalize feelings of anxiety, fear, sadness and anger associated with having a chronic psychiatric condition
  • develop coping skills for the challenges of daily life
  • deal with the stigma of mental illness
  • explain schizophrenia to questioning family members and friends
  • learn new ways to maintain healthy relationships with parents, siblings, teachers and peers
  • recognize the importance of adhering to a treatment plan, as well as setting goals and looking forward to the benefits of proper treatment

Treatment for schizophrenia will often include not only individual therapy for your child, but also family therapy for you and other loved ones, so that you have the information, support system and other tools you need to become an active participant in your child's care.

Specialized educational and/or structured activity programs

Children and adolescents with schizophrenia may reap significant benefits from specialized programs offered at schools, in medical centers or in the community. Examples of these programs might include:

  • customized, smaller classroom settings, with educators who have specialized training in teaching children and adolescents with psychiatric disorders
  • social skills training to:
    • develop healthy personal interaction techniques (such as maintaining good eye contact and determining fitting topics of conversation)
    • create a checklist for good hygiene
    • learn how to manage everyday tasks like balancing a checkbook or preparing a meal
  • vocational training to help young adults find jobs and volunteer opportunities
  • speech and language therapy to improve verbal and written communication

Your Children's clinician can refer you to the educational and activity programs in your area that are best suited to address your child's needs.

Support groups

Schizophrenia support groups for children and families can be tremendously helpful. These groups meet at medical centers, schools or community centers, and some even meet online or by phone. These resources can provide:

  • a “safe place” to share personal experiences and simply “vent” when necessary
  • a way to share tips and coping strategies with others facing the same challenges
  • a network for identifying and recommending local resources

Your Children's treatment team can recommend patient, parent, sibling and family support groups that focus on living with schizophrenia.

Coping and support

The journey you, your child and your family will undertake in treating schizophrenia can be emotionally, physically and mentally exhausting.

In addition to the information provided here, Children's offers the following resources for support and guidance:

  • Children's Center for Families is dedicated to helping families locate the information and resources they need to better understand their child's particular condition and take part in their care. All patients, families and health professionals are welcome to use the Center's services at no extra cost. The center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Please call 617-355-6279 for more information.
  • The Children's chaplaincy is a source of spiritual support for parents and family members. Our program includes nearly a dozen clergy members—representing Episcopal, Jewish, Lutheran, Muslim, Roman Catholic, Unitarian and United Church of Christ traditions—who will listen to you, pray with you and help you observe your own faith practices during your child's treatment.
  • The Experience Journal was designed by Children's psychiatrist-in-chief David DeMaso, MD and members of his team. This online collection features thoughts, reflections and advice from kids and caregivers dealing not only with physical illnesses like asthma and diabetes, but also with such mental health conditions as ADHD and depression.

Visit our “For Patients and Families” page for all the information you need about:

  • getting to Children's
  • finding accommodations
  • navigating the hospital experience

Helpful links

Please note that neither Boston Children's Hospital nor the Department of Psychiatry unreservedly endorses all of the information found at the sites listed below. These links are provided as a resource.

Helpful links for parents

Helpful links for teens

Helpful links for younger children

 

We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

Boston Children's Hospital 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115 617-355-6000 | 800-355-7944

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