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Treating first episode psychosis – the service users’ perspective: a focus group evaluation


Ruth Olsen
PO Box 54
Institute of Psychiatry
De Crespigny Park
London SE5 8AF


UK national guidance has prioritized developing specialist services for first episode psychosis. Such services are in the early stages of development and a definitive treatment model has yet to be established. The aim of this study was to explore service users’ experiences of a first episode intervention designed along evidence-based ‘best practice’ guidelines and to establish specific elements seen as effective to help inform future service planning and provision. Twelve users of a specialist first episode service participated in focus groups. These were then analyzed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, a specialized form of content analysis. Key elements identified by the service users included the ‘human’ approach as a key to the recovery process, being involved in treatment decisions, flexibility of appointments, high nurse to patient ratio, reduction in psychotic symptoms, increased confidence and independence and the provision of daily structure. To our knowledge, this is the first systematic qualitative evaluation of users’ experience of a specialist first episode treatment intervention. Our findings indicate that adherence to best practice guidelines was appreciated. Regular focus groups provide a continuous audit cycle incorporating service improvements in line with government recommendations, centrally informed by the service users’ and caregivers’ perspective.