Psychoeducation (brief) for people with serious mental illness

Sai Zhao, Stephanie Sampson, Jun Xia, Mahesh B. Jayaram

Research output: Journal PublicationReview articlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Those with serious/severe mental illness, especially schizophrenia and schizophrenic-like disorders, often have little to no insight regarding the presence of their illness. Psychoeducation may be defined as the education of a person with a psychiatric disorder regarding the symptoms, treatments, and prognosis of that illness. Brief psychoeducation is a short period of psychoeducation; although what constitutes 'brief psychoeducation' can vary. A previous systematic review has shown that the median length of psychoeducation is around 12 weeks. In this current systematic review, we defined 'brief psychoeducation' as programmes of 10 sessions or less. Objectives: To assess the efficacy of brief psychoeducational interventions as a means of helping severely mentally ill people when added to 'standard' care, compared with the efficacy of standard care alone. The secondary objective is to investigate whether there is evidence that a particular kind (individual/family/group) of brief psychoeducational intervention is superior to others. Search methods: We searched the Cochrane Schizophrenia Group register September 2013 using the phrase: [Psychoeducat in interventions of STUDY]. Reference lists of included studies were also inspected for further relevant studies. We also contacted authors of included study for further information regarding further data or details of any unpublished trials. Selection criteria: All relevant randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing brief psychoeducation with any other intervention for treatment of people with severe mental illness. If a trial was described as 'double blind' but implied randomisation, we entered such trials in a sensitivity analysis. Data collection and analysis: At least two review authors extracted data independently from included papers. We contacted authors of trials for additional and missing data. We calculated risk ratios (RR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) of homogeneous dichotomous data. For continuous data, we calculated the mean difference (MD), again with 95% CIs. We used a fixed-effect model for data synthesis, and also assessed data using a random-effects model in a sensitivity analysis. We assessed risk of bias for each included study and created 'Summary of findings' tables using GRADE (Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation). Main results: We included twenty studies with a total number of 2337 participants in this review. Nineteen studies compared brief psychoeducation with routine care or conventional delivery of information. One study compared brief psychoeducation with cognitive behavior therapy. Participants receiving brief psychoeducation were less likely to be non-compliant with medication than those receiving routine care in the short term (n = 448, 3 RCTs, RR 0.63 CI 0.41 to 0.96, moderate quality evidence) and medium term (n = 118, 1 RCT, RR 0.17 CI 0.05 to 0.54, low quality evidence). Compliance with follow-up was similar between the two groups in the short term (n = 30, 1 RCT, RR 1.00, CI 0.24 to 4.18), medium term (n = 322, 4 RCTs, RR 0.74 CI 0.50 to 1.09) and long term (n = 386, 2 RCTs, RR 1.19, CI 0.83 to 1.72). Relapse rates were significantly lower amongst participants receiving brief psychoeducation than those receiving routine care in the medium term (n = 406, RR 0.70 CI 0.52 to 0.93, moderate quality evidence), but not in the long term. Data from a few individual studies supported that brief psychoeducation: i) can improve the long-term global state (n = 59, 1 RCT, MD -6.70 CI -13.38 to -0.02, very low quality evidence); ii) promote improved mental state in short term (n = 60, 1 RCT, MD -2.70 CI -4.84 to -0.56,low quality evidence) and medium term; iii) can lower the incidence and severity of anxiety and depression. Social function such as rehabilitation status (n = 118, 1 RCT, MD -13.68 CI -14.85 to -12.51, low quality evidence) and social disability (n = 118, 1 RCT, MD -1.96 CI -2.09 to -1.83, low quality evidence) were also improved in the brief psychoeducation group. There was no difference found in quality of life as measured by GQOLI-74 in the short term (n = 62, 1 RCT, MD 0.63 CI -0.79 to 2.05, low quality evidence), nor the death rate in either groups (n = 154, 2 RCTs, RR 0.99, CI 0.15 to 6.65, low quality evidence). Authors' conclusions: Based on mainly low to very low quality evidence from a limited number of studies, brief psychoeducation of any form appears to reduce relapse in the medium term, and promote medication compliance in the short term. A brief psychoeducational approach could potentially be effective, but further large, high-quality studies are needed to either confirm or refute the use of this approach.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberCD010823
JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 9 Apr 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)


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