Residential Treatment of Schizophrenia at CooperRiis: An Empowering Approach
CooperRiis serves people with Schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and other psychotic spectrum disorders in an open and peaceful residential setting that allows individuals to progress through a continuum of care.
Our recovery model aims to help residents construct lives of meaning and purpose. Since residents are at the center of everything we do, residents are in charge of their recovery. When working with our residents, we meet with ‘Jim,’ instead of fixing ‘Jim,’ an important distinction for both the resident and the people working with him.
Currently, schizophrenia does not have a cure, so we must help those diagnosed with this illness to attain maximum recovery. Entering our care, it is essential we get to know the person and collaboratively develop a personalized recovery plan.
Treatment for Schizophrenia:
A Focus on Wellness and Possibility
At CooperRiis, we operate from a recovery model. Instead of focusing on illness and diagnosis, we shift the focus to wellness and possibility. We believe that recovery is possible for everyone, but it is a very personal process. We try to empower residents to find their highest level of functioning and fulfillment.
Individual and Group Therapy:
Meeting People Where They Are
Some of our residents thrive in group therapy, while others need more individualized attention. We tailor each resident’s treatment to their unique needs.
Some of the treatments for schizophrenia we offer are:
- Individual Psychotherapy
- Group therapy
- EMDR for trauma
- Dual diagnosis groups (for example, depression and alcohol abuse)
- Mindfulness-based meditation
- AlphaStim technology for insomnia (neuro-feedback)
- Heart Math (trains people to monitor their breathing and heart rate)
- Monthly massage therapy to release stress and pain, and promote relaxation
- Social skills training
- Yoga and exercise classes
- Art classes
- We also support residents in attending 12 Step meetings
Medications and Supplements
When someone first enters our program, we try to determine if their symptoms have an organic source, such as gluten intolerance or traumatic brain injury, and then try to treat that source. If there isn’t an organic contributor, we seek to find the correct medication strategy.
The resident has an initial meeting with our Integrative Psychiatrist to go over the resident’s medical history and how he or she feels. Residents undergo a full psychiatric evaluation, including a history of their lives, symptoms, and illness. They also tell us what has and has not helped treat their schizophrenia. The Integrative Psychiatry Director and the resident discuss medication goals, and then the resident decides what approach is most comfortable. This shared decision-making approach has been very successful for our residents, and they feel empowered in their recovery.
At CooperRiis, we strive for the lowest dose of medication for the highest effect.
At CooperRiis, we strive for the lowest dose of medication for the highest effect. Residents are fully involved in this process by keeping us apprised of how they feel and if their symptoms have subsided. Symptom reduction is a goal of medication, but it is not our only goal. If a resident takes medication and all their symptoms go away, but they are frequently nauseous or cannot get out of bed, it is not sustainable. Quality of life should improve with symptom reduction. Our goal is for medication to work long-term, with the fewest symptoms and side effects possible.
We also use supplements like vitamins, minerals, fish oil, and herbal extracts to improve well-being and improve recovery outcomes.
CooperRiis offers individual psychotherapy, group therapy, structured work and learning opportunities, and social opportunities, in addition to medication. Multiple facets of the resident’s life are addressed in our approach of treating the whole person.
The Dream Statement
When residents join CooperRiis, one of the first things we do is have them articulate their hopes and dreams for their lives. We call this the Dream Statement. The Dream Statement helps empower residents to take charge of their recovery.
The Dream Statement helps the resident set goals; core goals that are achievable in three months and goals that are achievable over one to two week periods. The Dream Statement can be as lofty as the resident wishes. The smaller weekly and monthly goals are always aimed toward the larger dream, giving the resident both a short-term and longer-term horizon.
For example, if a resident wants to attend and graduate from college (Dream Statement), then a weekly goal may be to get out of bed every day. As a step toward dream fulfillment, one must get out of bed to attend class. Instead of viewing getting out of bed in a negative light, the resident may begin to see getting out of bed as the first step toward college. We always strive to relate the daily and weekly goals to the Dream Statement so that residents are working toward something important to them.
People with schizophrenia who enter our program are often in crisis and have lost focus and direction. The Dream Statement becomes a road map for their recovery.
A Healing Community for the Whole Person
Our residents work with an interdisciplinary recovery team which is comprised of professionals with expertise in the above domains. Because every person is different, some domains are emphasized more than others, but they all receive attention.
The two domains that are often neglected with those diagnosed with schizophrenia are Social and Community Connectedness, and Purpose, Productivity, and Fulfillment. We have seen a dramatic improvements in many residents by addressing these domains.
Social and Community Connectedness
The community aspect of our program is extremely important, especially for people with schizophrenia. People with schizophrenia can lose touch with what it is like to relate to others and become lost in symptoms. An actively caring community helps people feel tethered to reality and to other people.
When we speak to our residents about what is most helpful in their recovery, being a part of a community is often cited as the most beneficial. Residents say things like:
- Being a part of a community that cares about me helps me to stay grounded.
- Having friends means I don’t fall through the cracks.
- I matter. I am valued.
- I have a place to belong.
- I now have friends who care about my recovery.
Purpose, Productivity, and Fulfillment
Residents spend about half their day at CooperRiis on a work crew, which gives them purpose as well as an opportunity to be in community. The work crews provide structure, and while working, the resident receives guidance and support from other people. The resident also develops transferable skills that they will be able to use for the rest of their lives. There are several crews — kitchen, garden, woodshop, animal, greenhouse, and art crew — all of which contribute to our community.
Working on a crew can be an incredible morale booster. If a resident works in the garden and sees the vegetables he helped raise on his dinner plate, he can take pride in the direct way he contributed to the community. He is helping his peers by providing healthy food.
Family Members: Support and Education
At CooperRiis the resident’s family is an essential and valued part of the treatment team. A recent study showed that family support of someone with mental illness can reduce the rate of re-hospitalization by up to 75 percent. People with schizophrenia need a stable support system to continue healthy living once they reintegrate into the outside world. We help strengthen the entire family to support the resident’s recovery.
Although we encourage family participation, the resident advises us about how we communicate with family members. We try to balance empowering our residents and appropriate family involvement. Each resident has a family liaison, a Recovery Coordinator, who speaks to family members every other week. The resident can choose to be on the call or not. Ideally, the resident and family participate together in recovery.
During the resident’s stay with us, it is a good time for family members to educate themselves about schizophrenia, to care for themselves, and to establish systems of support for when their loved one leaves CooperRiis.
Some of the ways we support families are:
- Each resident has a family liaison/Recovery Coordinator
- Educating families about how they can best support their loved one
- Regular family meetings
- Family education weekends twice a year on our campus
Is Treatment for Schizophrenia at CooperRiis Effective?
The CooperRiis’ model of recovery works. Data collected over ten years show individual recovery progress within the CooperRiis residential program, which is based upon therapeutic community principles and a Seven Domains Enhanced Recovery Model (Young, Schactman and Snyder, 2014).
Results demonstrate recovery progress on many different domains of wellness in addition to symptom reduction, including gains in functioning, emotional well-being, sense of purpose and hopefulness.
CooperRiis’ evidence-based clinical services and therapeutic community approach is supported by an extensive body of research and clinical experience. Medication, structured work routines, personal wellness, psychotherapy, and a strong supportive community can dramatically improve the symptoms and the lives of those with schizophrenia.
2019 Alumni Survey Results
are engaged in either competitive employment, volunteering, or going to school.
Frequently Asked Questions
Schizophrenia is a chronic mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. The causes and symptoms can vary among individuals. Schizophrenia affects about one percent of the population, appearing equally in both men and women, though symptoms tend to begin earlier in men. The disorder is present in all ethnic groups. Rarely have children under the age of 16 been diagnosed with schizophrenia.
The phases of schizophrenia are prodromal, active, and residual. At CooperRiis, we include ‘recovery’ on this list because we believe recovery is possible.
People with schizophrenia are often misdiagnosed in the prodromal phase because of the vast array of symptoms that can be present and their subtlety. Symptoms in the prodromal phase include:
- Withdrawal from family and social life
- A preference for being alone
- Outbursts of anger
- Loss of interest in everyday activities and apathy
- Odd behavior
Over time, symptoms of schizophrenia become evident to family and friends and include:
- Paranoid delusions
- Disorganized speech
- Disorganized behavior
- Confusing thought patterns
- Trouble concentrating
Symptoms in the residual phase resemble those in the prodromal stage. While alarming signs of the active stage have mostly subsided, symptoms such as low energy, listlessness, and withdrawal can still be present.
With treatment, most people with schizophrenia will improve with time. Most of our residents come to us in the active or residual phases of schizophrenia. Still, regardless of where they are, our goal is always the same – to help residents move into the recovery phase by achieving the highest fulfillment and functioning level possible.
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