Therapy Skills that Help with My Schizoaffective Disorder

December 7, 2023 Elizabeth Caudy

Now, I have therapy skills for my schizoaffective disorder, but that wasn't true when I was younger. My first psychotic episode hit 25 years ago this holiday season, when I was a student at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). I was only 19 years old—terrified and somewhat unaware of what was happening. I’ve grown up a lot since then. You can grow and change while living with a mental illness. I know because I did, and my mental illness changed with me. What helped me and my schizoaffective disorder grow up, along with medication, are skills I learned in therapy. Here are some of the ones I found to be most helpful.

Therapeutic Skills I’ve Learned for My Schizoaffective Disorder

A lot of the skills emerged from dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). This therapy has been instrumental in helping with my schizoaffective disorder and schizoaffective anxiety. In my understanding, dialectical behavior therapy is similar to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which seeks to change the way you feel by changing the way you think, and that has also helped a lot with my schizoaffective disorder and accompanying anxiety. But I've found that DBT takes it a step further by encouraging you to accept the way you feel before you try to make a change.

A DBT skill that helped my schizoaffective disorder a lot, one I learned fairly recently from my therapist, is how to deal with rumination. For me, rumination is another word for excessive worrying all the time. I’ve been worrying a lot since I was a little kid. The skill my therapist taught me is to not engage with the rumination. The way you do this is to say something to the worry like, “I’m going to put this worry away for next week.” (It helps to have milestones so you don’t put pressure on yourself to never worry about an idea again.) Then, I imagine wrapping the worry up in a bag, tying it up, and putting it off to the side for later. This has helped a lot with my worrying. I wouldn’t say I’m worry-free, but it’s gotten better. I've found the key is to realize that you’re not helping anything by embracing the worrying, that, by worrying, you’re not going to solve the problem.

Another helpful skill for schizoaffective disorder I’ve learned in therapy is not engaging with “what if” thinking. I learned this years ago in an intensive outpatient program, a program where you go to the hospital every day, but you sleep at home. (It’s kind of like going to school or work. It’s different from staying all day and all night in a psychiatric ward, which I’ve done, too.)

I used to think that participating in the “what ifs” was a good way to prepare for bad things that might happen, but it’s quite the opposite. “What if” thinking makes you freeze with fear at something that hasn’t even occurred and probably won’t. The way I cut off “what if” scenarios in their tracks is to label the thoughts as “what if” thinking. I label them as worrying about something that hasn’t happened and might not even happen.

With Therapy Skills for Schizoaffective Disorder, I Feel Blessed

By using therapy skills for schizoaffective disorder and, of course, by taking my medication, I’ve managed to keep my illness at bay. I have to admit that it does control my life in some ways, but it’s not nearly as bad as when I dropped out of reality into my first episode in 1998. My family, especially my husband, Tom, helps a lot, too. If, in 1998, I had known that in just 10 years I would be married to such a wonderful man, I wouldn’t have been so scared about how my life would turn out—25 years since my first episode; I am very blessed.

APA Reference
Caudy, E. (2023, December 7). Therapy Skills that Help with My Schizoaffective Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, February 29 from

Author: Elizabeth Caudy

Elizabeth Caudy was born in 1979 to a writer and a photographer. She has been writing since she was five years old. She has a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA in photography from Columbia College Chicago. She lives outside Chicago with her husband, Tom. Find Elizabeth on Google+ and on her personal blog.

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