Nearly a century after doctors first coined the term “schizophrenia,” researchers may have finally found a more effective way to treat the serious mental health condition. According to results from a recent study, therapy, not drugs, may be the key to finally controlling schizophrenia symptoms.

In the past 60 years we’ve sent men to the moon, invented an invisible high-speed global network, and developed cars that run on electricity. Still, the antipsychotic medications prescribed to treat schizophrenia look very much the same way they did in the 1950s. In an attempt to improve both our understanding and treatment of schizophrenia, a team of researchers funded by the National Institutes of Mental Health recently spent four years studying 200 newly diagnosed schizophrenics at 34 treatment centers in 21 states.

Vice News reported that half of these patients were treated solely with medication, while the other half received a lower dose medication, at some points 50 percent lower than the recommended dosage, in combination with individual therapy, coaching sessions in the workplace or school, and family counseling. At the end of the study, the team observed that patients who received the combination of the low dosage medication and therapy fared better than those who received only medication. Patients who received therapy also experienced less adverse medication side effects, due to the lower dosage. Though many health professionals have already recognized the importance of therapy in treating schizophrenia, this is the first scientific study to prove this. The finding may be significant enough to completely change the way schizophrenia is treated.

"For psychosis, we really hadn't conceptualized an early-intervention model. So this is cool because it takes that idea and gives people services we know work, and it turns out they do better in work, in school, and in their level of stress," Ken Duckworth, director of National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) told VICE. "This proved what many of us thought was probably true, but until you prove it you don't have it."

In a world where we often go to the quick results promised by medication, the power of therapy is often overlooked. According to VICE, many insurance companies simply do not cover the types of treatments found to be effective in this recent study. However, schizophrenia is not the only illness that has been proven to significantly benefit from regular talk therapy, also known as psychotherapy. The treatment has also been proven to be highly effective in helping individuals with major depression, PTSD, and even anorexia.

The next step forward is to use this information to develop programs that would help patients. "This study that proves the benefit of this, that therapy is key, hopefully will be a part of the push to have that therapy paid for by the insurers," Dr. Jeffrey Borenstein, president of the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, told VICE.

Source: Kane JM, Robinson DG, Schooler NR, et al. Comprehensive Versus Usual Community Care for First-Episode Psychosis: 2-Year Outcomes From the NIMH RAISE Early Treatment Program. The American Journal of Psychiatry. 2015.