Psychoeducation

Our rating
 1 smiley: This treatment is promising and may be useful. It has some evidence to support it, but more evidence is needed to be sure it works.

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The rating system

  • 3 smiliesThese treatments are very useful. They are strongly supported as effective by scientific evidence.
  • 2 smiliesThese treatments are useful. They are supported by scientific evidence as effective, but the evidence is not as strong.
  • 1 smileyThese treatments are promising and may be useful. They have some evidence to support them, but more evidence is needed to be sure they work.
  • No smiley On the available evidence, these treatments do not seem to be effective.
  • Question markThese treatments have not been properly researched. It is not possible to say whether they are useful or not.
  • These treatments are not recommended and could be dangerousSafety or other concerns have been raised for the use of these treatments.

What is it?

Psychoeducation is education about mental illness. For people with depression, the purpose of psychoeducation is to inform them about what depression is, how it’s caused and how it’s treated. Psychoeducation can come in many forms, such as a pamphlet or leaflet, feedback from screening scores, a website, conversations with your doctor or sessions with a therapist. Blue Pages is an example of a website that provides psychoeducation for depression. Psychoeducation can also be given to friends and family of someone with a mental illness.

How does it work?

Psychoeducation promotes understanding about depression and can help people with depression feel more in control of their health. It can reduce stigma about depression and direct people to the treatment options that are available. Learning about other treatments, such as antidepressants and cognitive behaviour therapy, can help people feel more comfortable in seeking out these treatments and improve their likelihood of sticking to a treatment.

Is it effective?

A review of three studies found that psychoeducation was more effective than a control (no treatment) in reducing depression symptoms. Participants in these studies were all adults and received a brief psychoeducation intervention; for example, they were asked to visit a website which contained information on depression, or were mailed out leaflets which had information about depression.

The effect of psychoeducation seems to be small, and it is not clear if psychoeducation can lead to long-term improvements in mood.

Are there any disadvantages?

None known.

Where do you get it?

Blue Pages provides information about depression and depression treatments. Beyondblue also offers information about depression and other mental illnesses.

You can also ask a GP, psychologist or other mental health professional to provide education about depression. Most psychological therapies (for example, cognitive behaviour therapy) should include a psychoeducation component.

Recommendation

Psychoeducation can be a useful addition to other treatments for depression. It is not recommended as a standalone treatment.

Key references

  • Donker T, Griffiths KM, Cuijpers P, Christensen H. Psychoeducation for depression, anxiety and psychological distress: a meta-analysis. BMC Medicine. 2009; 7(1): 1-9.
  • Zhao S, Sampson S, Xia J, Jayaram MB. Psychoeducation (brief) for people with serious mental illness. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2015(4).

Last reviewed and updated: 1 November 2019.