While there is no single agreed upon definition of illness self-management, most definitions converge on describing it as intervention designed to help consumers better manage their psychiatric illness. Using a broad definition such as this, most psychiatric rehabilitation approaches could be conceptualized as illness self-management. Many people prefer to define it more narrowly to refer to it as the management of the psychopathology of the disorder (symptoms, relapses, re-hospitalizations), but not necessarily all the associated impairments (work, social relationships), which then invokes the field of psychiatric rehabilitation. Note, however, that that management of a psychiatric illness requires attention to social relationships (e.g., supports), involvement in meaningful activity, etc., so that effective illness self-management requires focusing on more than symptoms.
What does illness self-management involve?
The research literature on illness management identifies four different treatment components that were supported by the evidence:
- Psychoeducation about psychiatric illness and its management, which has been found to improve knowledge of the illness, but not to influence its course;
- Behavioral tailoring to address medication non-adherence, which involves helping people fit taking medication into their daily routines, and has been found to improve medication adherence;
- Developing relapse prevention plans, which has been found to reduce relapses; and
- Teaching coping strategies for dealing with persistent symptoms, which has been found to reduce symptom severity and distress.
Does illness self-management help with symptoms? Improved outcomes? What are the positive effects of illness self-management?
Based on the research, the positive effects include reduced symptom severity and distress, and reduced relapses and re-hospitalizations. The illness management and recovery intervention teaches illness management skills in the context of helping consumers articulate and pursue personal recovery goals.