Date: 10 January 2018
A new therapy aimed at helping young people with psychosis to reconnect and engage with the world around them has had promising results, a study involving psychologists at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) has found.
Social Recovery Therapy (SRT) which involves helping severely withdrawn individuals to identify personally meaningful goals and to set up day-to-day achievable activities, can significantly increase their amount of social interaction, according to the study published in The Lancet Psychiatry (11 December 2017).
The therapy was devised by University of Sussex psychologist, Professor David Fowler with Dr Joanne Hodgekins and colleagues at the UEA and the University of Manchester. The study, funded by the NIHR (National Institute for Health Research) involved the researchers working with health services including NSFT in the local area.
A total of 47 patients aged 16 to 35 took part in testing the therapy over a two-year period at NSFT (154 nationally). The study found that the most effective outcomes were for those who received both the early intervention services provided by the NHS, in combination with a nine-month period of Social Recovery Therapy.
Patients and therapists worked together in a three-stage programme that involved identifying goals and expectations, followed by supporting participants in preparing to achieve those goals (including referral to relevant employment agencies, education providers and community providers of social and sports activities). The last stage in the programme focused on helping patients to manage their symptoms, such as negative beliefs and feelings of stigma, while actively engaging in new activities.
Dr Hodgekins, Clinical Psychologist and Senior Lecturer at the UEA (pictured above) said:
“Most psychological interventions for people with psychosis tend to focus on symptoms. Whilst this is important, individuals also often need support with getting their lives back on track. This is what SRT aims to do. Individuals have described the intervention as having real life changing consequences for them, including starting college courses or employment – things which they didn’t necessarily think would be possible for them. Participants reported valuing the flexible nature of the intervention with the option to go out and practice new skills in real life situations with their therapist. This was different from the kind of therapeutic experiences people had had before.”
Professor Fowler said:
“We identified those most socially withdrawn as spending less than 30 hours a week outside of their home and found that, through a combination of early intervention services and Social Recovery Therapy, we can increase that weekly structured activity by eight hours. Our hope is that this now provides a framework for training others, especially in identifying young people at risk of developing disorders at an earlier stage.”
Professor Jesus Perez, Consultant Psychiatrist, and Clinical Director for the NIHR Clinical Research Network in the Eastern region said:
“The more clinical research like this we can do, the more we can help those who struggle with mental health disorders to break down the possible barriers to living a full life. The progress being made by researchers in this field is really picking up pace, and this is not only down to our experts in the NHS and academia, but also thanks to the incredible generosity of the research volunteers who get involved, helping us take great strides in improving care for the future.”
An independent review that will be published alongside the paper in The Lancet Psychiatry described the therapy as "one of the most promising developments for this severely debilitated population in many years".
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