Group cognitive behavioural therapy for first episode psychosis: who's referred, who attends and who completes it?


Ms Felicity Fanning, DETECT, Early Intervention in Psychosis Service, Avila House, Block 5, Blackrock Business Park, Carysfort Avenue, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Email:


Aim: Most national guidelines recommend psychological therapy for people with first-episode psychosis (FEP) but interventions proven effective in randomized control trials (RCTs) conducted in research settings do not always translate effectively to real-world clinical environments. In a limited health system, it is important to understand the system and patient barriers to participation in effective treatment. We sought to determine what patient characteristics influenced clinicians' decision to refer or not to refer to group cognitive behavioural therapy for FEP and what characteristics were associated with those referred attending/not attending and adhering/not adhering to the programme.

Methods: Between 2006 and 2008, all cases of confirmed FEP from a defined geographical region were examined using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV-TR Axis I Disorders for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) diagnoses, the Scale for Assessment of Positive Symptoms, Scale for Assessment of Negative Symptoms, Calgary Depression Scale for Schizophrenia and Birchwood Insight Scale. Duration of untreated psychosis was established using the Beiser Scale.

Results: Of the 124 (77 males, 47 females) people in the final sample, 88 (72%) were referred for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), 52 (59%) attended and 12 (23%) did not complete CBT. Those with higher levels of insight into the need for treatment (U = 740.00, z = −2.63, P = 0.008) and higher levels of positive symptoms (t (120) = −3.064, P = 0.003) were more likely to be referred to CBT. Those with higher educational attainment (χ2 = 9.48, P = 0.03) and fewer negative symptoms, particularly in relation to global attention (t (85) = 2.32, P = 0.03), were more likely to attend and complete CBT.

Conclusion: Within an early intervention service for FEP, it appears that individuals with less education, more negative symptoms and less insight experienced significant barriers to successfully completing group CBT. More information for referring clinicians about the benefits of CBT for FEP could help increase referral rates. Assertive outreach for people at risk of disengaging or non-adherence should also be considered.