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The development and implementation of a pilot CBT for early psychosis service: achievements and challenges

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Abstract

Aim

Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is a clinically indicated treatment for first-episode psychosis. Despite this, CBT for early psychosis is not routinely available as part of standard mental health services in Australia. The aim of this pilot project was to develop a CBT for early psychosis service to be provided as an adjunct to existing community mental health services. This study examined the feasibility of this service model, delivered in a real-world setting. A secondary aim was to explore the effectiveness of this service, as measured by clinical and functional outcomes.

Methods

Participants living in northern Sydney, Australia, and who had recently experienced a first episode of psychosis, were offered up to 20 sessions of individual CBT. Service feasibility was measured via attrition rates, therapy attendance and referrer feedback. Measures of psychosis, depression, anxiety and psychosocial functioning, were assessed pretreatment, after six and 12 sessions, and at 3 months post-treatment.

Results

Nineteen clients attended treatment to completion. Survey feedback from referrers affirmed the positive impact of the service on clients' recovery. Additionally, clients showed improvements in symptoms of psychosis over the first three time points. Psychosocial functioning also shifted from the moderately to mildly impaired range by the end of treatment.

Conclusions

The CBT for early psychosis service has been successfully integrated into the mental health landscape of northern Sydney. Outcomes of this pilot project are discussed with reference to the achievements of the service, as well as the obstacles encountered, and how they were overcome.

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