Treating Schizophrenia Before Children Have It


NPR Shots discusses the plethora of new programs for early intervention for psychosis, with a focus on Ventura Early Intervention Prevention Services, operated by Alameda-based Telecare Corp. “VIPS is one of a handful of programs that have sprung up in California in recent years, based on a model developed in Maine by psychiatrist Dr. Bill McFarlane,” reports NPR.

“McFarlane believes that psychosis can be prevented with a range of surprisingly low-tech interventions, almost all of which are designed to reduce stress in the family of the young person who is starting to show symptoms,” reports NPR. “McFarlane cites research done at UCLA suggesting that certain kinds of family dynamics — families that don’t communicate well, or are overly critical — can make things worse for a young person at risk of schizophrenia.”

“Our theory,” McFarlane tells NPR, “was that if you could identify these young people early enough, you could alter some of those family patterns. Then you could work with the family to start behaving not just normally, but in a way that was smarter.”

The programs involve twice-monthly multifamily group therapy sessions, and early prescribing of antipsychotic drugs. “McFarlane himself is careful about recommending antipsychotic medications,” says NPR. “But in programs inspired by his model, the drugs appear to be widely prescribed, including in clients as young as 10 or 13.”

Halting Schizophrenia Before It Starts (NPR Shots, October 20, 2014)


  1. The road to hell is paved with good intentions…
    “was that if you could identify these young people early enough, you could alter some of those family patterns.” sounds like a good idea until you realise that (of course) it leads to this disaster: “in programs inspired by his model, the drugs appear to be widely prescribed, including in clients as young as 10 or 13”.

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  2. I think this approach is dangerous. The worst irrational fear I have experienced has been on withdrawing from antipsychotics. In my opinion these drugs cause long term mental illness.

    I attend independent peer group meetings where people have permission to talk about what it’s like to be human, and irrational thought is a normal part of being human. The trick is to know how to deal with thoughts.

    When the meetings end people go back to their families and their normal lives (as nurses, doctors, teachers, carpenters, and cleaners). In one of these groups Megans experience with the headlights would be considered ‘small potatoes’.

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    • “irrational thought is a normal part of being human”
      What do you define as “irrational” anyway? I have a problem with defining thoughts that lead people to be depressed or anxious as “irrational” because they aren’t. World is a dangerous place, life is short and full of suffering and in the end we all die and not everyone believes in eternal life. So it is equally if not more “irrational” to just carry on and live your life from day to day as it is to sit down and cry. It may not be productive to think like that and it may not make the situation any better (because these are things one has no control over) but these thoughts are no more “irrational” than having hope or motivation to do things etc.

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  3. Hi B
    Maybe I should have put it in inverted commas.
    For me what I do inside of my head when I worry is ‘irrational’. If I process the same scenario when I feel okay – there’s nothing in it. The issue being the state of mind I’m in at the time, not the external scenario.

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    • I understand what you mean but I just want to point out that for these things there’s no rationality or irrationality involved – it all goes down to what you attitude and emotional reaction is to given facts of life.
      some can get for instance super fearful and depressed at the thought of death but it does not make his/her thinking irrational, only very damaging at least from our human practical point of view. But his/her fear and sadness are not irrational because what he/she fears is reality.
      Too often psychiatry/psychology labels you as irrational or delusional simply because they assume that how they feel or think about facts of life is the “correct”, “proper” or “normal” way. Take suicide – there is no objective reason why one should not decide to end their lives if they feel miserable yet this is always labelled as a sign of insanity and lack of capacity to make decisions.

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