early cognitive therapyYoung people with a high risk of developing psychosis could “significantly reduce” their chances of developing a full-blown psychotic illness by getting early access to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), according to new research.

Researchers from The University of Manchester found the risk of developing psychosis was more than halved for those who received CBT early on in their treatment.

According to the researchers, CBT involves helping people understand that the way they make sense of their experiences, and how they respond to them, can determine how distressing or disabling they are. Through CBT, patients learn a range of strategies they can use to reduce their distress, which allows them to work toward recovery.

For psychosis prevention, CBT places a heavy emphasis on “normalizing” and “destigmatizing” experiences such as hearing voices or having paranoid thoughts.

For the new study, the research team analyzed previous studies that included 800 people at high risk of developing psychosis. Patients were randomly assigned to receive CBT or a control treatment, which was either treatment as usual or supportive counseling.

“We found that the risk of developing a full-blown psychotic illness was more than halved for those receiving CBT at six, 12 and 18-24 months after treatment started,” said Dr. Paul Hutton, who led the study. “Our research suggests that young people seeking help who are at risk of developing psychosis should now be offered a package of care which includes at least six months of CBT.”

He noted there was no evidence that CBT had adverse effects, but said future clinical trials “should measure this more thoroughly.”

“Our analysis also suggests that existing CBT approaches may need to be adapted to focus more on improving social and occupational functioning,” he concluded.

The study was published in Psychological Medicine.

Source: The University of Manchester

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