What is psychoeducation?

PsychoeducationPsychoeducation 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.

When Is Psychoeducation Used?

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.

Format Of Psychoeducation

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.

Group psychoeducation

Group psychoeducation can be very effective for a number of reasons. For starters, group situations are always less intimidating than a one on one session with the psychologist. People feel that they have the support of the group as well as the feeling they are “not alone” which decreases the amount of stress in the situation. Many people feel intimidated to ask questions or simply do not think of questions to ask. In a group situation the odds are that the majority of common questions will be dealt with predominantly through discussion. In a group situation you can share your experiences with others and share what techniques have been effective for you and others can share their experiences with you. This way everyone gains a perspective of how other people deal with their situations which adds to the overall learning experience.

Group psychoeducation can also be implemented in schools as a preventative measure. Educating children and adolescents in schools about relevant issues is commonly used as a preventative measure. Some of the issues discussed in classroom or small group sessions are:

Classroom education is also sometimes offered if a child in the school or class has a specific condition that may confuse the other children such as diabetes or epilepsy. Once the students understand the condition they are less likely to think of the child as different and will be more willing to help. This is called reducing the stigma associated with a condition. If a child has been diagnosed with attention-deficit and/or hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) they may they think their friends will view them as weird or different. If the child has the opportunity to explain their condition and the class can discuss it in an open and sharing environment the mystery and confusion surrounding the disorder will be reduced which in turn reduces the stigma. If your child has a specific condition that you would like his or her peer group or class group to be educated about see your school psychologist.

Individual Psychoeducation

Individual psychoeducation can be more specific and focused and can cover information and content that is more relevant for an individual situation. If group situations tend to make you or your family feel anxious and threatened then individual psychotherapy with the safety and confidentiality of a one on one interaction with a therapist or doctor may be more suitable.

Psychoeducation for parents and family

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.

Psychoeducation for friends and caretakers

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.

Structure Of Psychoeducation

Although psychoeducation can involve indirect “free-flowing” discussion, a certain amount of structure needs to be involved in order to make sure the program stays on track. Each psychoeducation session will have specific goals and content.

The structure of psychoeducation is determined by whether the program involves the individual with the disorder or only involves the family or peers.

If you are participating in a psychoeducation program you should expect that all the essential information about your condition will be covered as well as any extra information you require. Remember though that a lot of research still needs to be done in many areas of medicine, the human body and the human brain and so there will be some questions that you may have that cannot be answered yet.

The common topics that will be focused on are as follows:

  • The medical aspects of the condition by identifying and defining the diagnosis, the prognosis, the biology and psychology. How the condition may affect your future in terms of physical limits, how this will affect your mind set and how to think positively.
  • The stigma attached to your diagnosis, how this is affected by the media and what can be done to combat and manage the stigma. The stigma associated with many physiological and psychological conditions can impact significantly on your self-esteem and self-worth. Firstly you must alter the stigma that you associate with you illness then you can work to help other people understand your condition through education.
  • Healthy lifestyle behaviours that will help to manage the condition.
  • Stress management- why do need to manage our stress levels and how does high stress lead to the worsening of symptoms?
  • Understanding self-esteem, self-image, self-efficacy
  • Treatment- For many disorders adherence to medication is a very important factor in maintaining and managing the condition. The information will answer questions about the medication that includes: What it does? How does it work? What are the benefits? What are the side effects or adverse effects? When and how often it must be taken? Why it is important to it at certain intervals? What happens when the medication is not taken? And so on. Another important aspect of treatment are the types of psychotherapies that are available and suitable to help the patient deal with the psychological effects of the condition and what is the cost, the effectiveness and the cost effectiveness of these psychotherapies?
  • Financial assistance that is available to aid you will be discussed.

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.

Without the patient present

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:

  • Understanding the nature of the illness- this includes information on the disorder as well as the psychological aspects involved. What is it like for the patient in terms of psychology and physiology? What are the realistic expectations that of the patient?
  • The main symptoms of the disorder as well as the identification of the disorder are discussed. For example a psychoeducation program might be implemented for pre-primary parents in order for them to learn how to identify the early signs of conduct problems or ADHD in their children.
  • Indentifying trigger factors– If the people that care for the patient know how to identify the factors which trigger certain symptoms such as a manic or depressive episode, a psychotic episode, an epileptic fit and so on, they will be more able to prevent these events from occurring and therefore improving symptomatic profile of the client.
  • Treatment- For many disorders adherence to medication is a very important factor in maintaining and managing the condition. If a patient is unable to adhere to a medication schedule alone then it is vital that the people who are responsible for them can. The information will answer questions about the medication that includes: What it does? How does it work? What are the benefits? What are the side effects? When and how often it must be taken? Why it is important to it at certain intervals? What happens when the medication is not taken? And so on. Another important aspect of treatment are the types of psychotherapies that are available and suitable to help the patient deal with the psychological effects of the condition and what is the cost, the effectiveness and the cost effectiveness of these psychotherapies?
  • What to do in emergencies? Many conditions are associated with spontaneous risk therefore it is important for people to know what is the appropriate protocol when there is a psychological or psychological emergency? How can the emergency be best handled?
  • The financial, legal and social support that is available for families, caretakers and schools to aid in caring and catering for the patient will also be discussed.

Social Psychoeducation

Along with education about the psychological and psychological factors of your condition the therapist and doctor may also discuss the social factors. These include the influence of social stigma as well as social support and the importance of recognising the social support you have, this is called social psychoeducation.

When people feel they have the support of the community they are more likely to manage the distress associated with their condition more effectively. However the people who are experiencing hardships are more likely to perceive they have no support.

For adolescents and children, peer pressure issues may also be dealt with. For example it is very important that a diabetic child understands why they cannot have as much chocolate and lollies as their friends and also how and when to say no if their friends offer them food.

What Is Involved In Psychoeducation?

Psychoeducation can take a various amount of sessions before it is complete, this depends on how well the concepts and learning outcomes are achieved. In order to maximise the efficiency of the program the psychologist will deliever the content that is most appropriate for their client or clients in an interesting way. Psychoeducation should not be too hard to understand, nor should it go so slowly that it is boring. If you are finding the psychoeducation is not appropriate for you or your family share this with your psychologist and perhaps they can change their content or teaching patterns. Psychoeducation is rarely classroom-type teaching. It involes interactive learning such as role plays, reading, writing, DVDs and discussion.


Like any psychotherapy the effectiveness of psychoeducation depends entirely upon what you put into it. If you believe in the therapy and do your best to actively learn the material, by asking questions and engaging in the activities, psychoeducation will benefit you. That said, psychoeducation is not a stand alone treatment option. Although knowing about your condition is very important without the concurrent psychotherapy or medications your condition will not improve. Psychoeducation is the basis for dealing and managing your condition, once you have that basis you are more likely to benefit from the advantages of other treatments as you will have more faith in them and you will have a higher sense of control over your situation. Education and knowledge feeds into self-efficacy which is essential in treatment for any problem.


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This treatment is used for the following diseases: