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Can a targeted psychological intervention be effective for young people following a first manic episode? Results from an 18-month pilot study


Dr Craig A. Macneil, Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention Centre (EPPIC) Continuing Care Team, Orygen Youth Health Clinical Program, Orygen Research Centre – Mania Team, 35 Poplar Road, Parkville, Melbourne, Vic. 3052, Australia. Email:


Aim: There is a scarce literature describing psychological interventions for a young, first-episode cohort who have experienced psychotic mania. This study aimed to assess whether a manualized psychological intervention could be effective in reducing symptomatology and relapse, and improve functional outcome in this population.

Methods: The study was an open-label design, drawn from a larger pharmacotherapy trial. All participants in the pharmacotherapy trial were offered a manualized psychological intervention in addition to case management. Inclusion in the psychotherapy group was based on participant's choice, and on completion of four or more of the eight modules offered. All clinical files were audited to ensure accuracy of group allocation. Forty young people aged 15 to 25 years old who had experienced a manic episode with psychotic features were recruited into the study, with 20 people in the combined treatment as usual plus psychotherapy group (P+TAU), and an equal number of matched control participants who received treatment as usual (TAU) within the same service. All participants were prescribed antipsychotic and mood-stabilizing medication. Symptomatic, functional and relapse measures were taken both at baseline and at 18-month follow-up.

Results: Manic symptoms improved significantly for both groups, with no differences between groups. Depression scores and overall symptom severity were significantly lower in the P + TAU group. No differences were evident between groups with regard to numbers or type of relapse. The P + TAU group had significantly better social and occupational functioning after 18 months.

Conclusion: This study suggests that a manualized psychological intervention targeted to a first-episode population can be effective in reducing depression and overall symptom severity, and can improve functional outcome following a first episode of psychotic mania.