Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice

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Volume 87 Issue 3 (September 2014), Pages 253-371

Young people at risk of psychosis: Their subjective experiences of monitoring and cognitive behaviour therapy in the early detection and intervention evaluation 2 trial (pages 357-371)

Objectives

To explore participants' experiences of ‘enhanced monitoring’ and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) within a randomized controlled trial evaluating early detection and prevention of psychosis (‘early detection and intervention evaluation [EDIE] 2’).

Design

Semi‐structured qualitative interviews were conducted with a sample of participants at the end of their involvement with the trial.

Methods

Ten young people were interviewed; six males and four females, with a mean age of 27.5. Nine participants identified themselves as White British and one Black British. All participants had received ‘enhanced monitoring’ during the trial, and 8 of 10 also received CBT. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using thematic analysis to identify central themes within and among participants' accounts.

Results

Three super‐ordinate thematic areas were identified: ‘a chance to talk’, monitoring‐specific themes, and CBT‐specific themes. The central theme (‘a chance to talk’) was drawn from across all participants' accounts and represents the most consistently valued attribute of participants' experiences of the EDIE 2 trial. Sub‐themes of this topic were identified as follows: interpersonal engagement, informality and normalization, and ‘opening up’. Sub‐themes related to monitoring include the following: clarity and reassurance, ‘a therapeutic process’, and challenges. CBT experience was most consistently conceptualized as ‘rethinking things’, and two additional CBT‐specific sub‐themes were identified: hard work and moving forward.

Conclusions

Our findings suggest that for young people at risk of psychosis, a normalizing psychosocially oriented assessment and monitoring process may have benefits for many, while CBT may help to reduce the negative impact of unusual psychological experiences for both the short‐ and long term.

Practitioner points

  • Young people considered at risk of psychosis highly value normalizing, collaborative, and flexible approaches when engaging with research or clinical staff.
  • All of our participants highlighted the primary value of their engagement with staff members as having a ‘chance to talk’ about their experiences and difficulties.
  • CBT seems to be widely acceptable among ‘at‐risk’ participants, though further research is required to establish the ‘key ingredients’ of effective CBT for ‘at‐risk’ individuals.
  • Valued CBT‐related outcomes highlighted by participants included improved psychosocial understanding of their difficulties, improved coping ability, and greater optimism for the future.

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