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Caring for caregivers: Understanding and meeting their needs in coping with first episode psychosis

Aim: The first episode of psychosis is a challenging time for both patients and those who care for them. Although literature on treatment is plentiful, literature on how to best support caregivers is more scarce. This review was undertaken to better understand the caregiver experience, determine which interventions most effectively alleviate their burden and examine which other factors may affect outcomes. Methods: Articles were retrieved from PubMed and OVID using the following search terms: first episode psychosis (FEP), schizophrenia, caregiver, intervention and burden in various combinations. Only peer‐reviewed articles germane to FEP caregiver experience and interventions written in English were included. Results: Caregivers can experience grief, guilt and anxiety during this time. While concerned for their loved one, their own lives take a back seat and their mental and physical health are adversely affected. Some are better prepared to cope and are typically warm, decisive, confident and optimistic. Their families are organized and flexible. Others are less prepared and are more likely to have poor self‐esteem, use avoidant coping strategies and be overly critical. Their families are controlling and have difficulty with communication and balance. These caregivers stand to benefit most from interventions. Conclusions: Effective interventions incorporate psychoeducation, problem solving strategies, peer support and clinician guidance. A higher level of interaction with facilitators and peers is associated with better results. Benefits include decreases in caregiver burden, depressive and anxious symptoms and feelings of shame and isolation. Although the literature has yet to isolate the key factors of a successful intervention, this review provides practical suggestions for clinicians and further illustrates the need for more research. 

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John Wiley & Sons
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Early Intervention in Psychiatry
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