New Therapy Technique Improves Social Skills among Those with Schizophrenia

U.K. researchers have found support for a new therapy for young people suffering from schizophrenia. The technique, social recovery therapy, helps individuals reconnect and engage with the world around them.

University of Sussex investigators explain that social recovery therapy helps severely withdrawn individuals to identify personally meaningful goals and to set up day-to-day achievable activities — actions which significantly increase their amount of social interaction.

Sussex psychologist Professor David Fowler, who devised the therapy with colleagues at the University of East Anglia and the University of Manchester, said, “Non-affective psychosis or schizophrenia affects one percent of the population, with the most at risk group being young people entering adolescence.

“Services currently provided by the health service for sufferers, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and medical intervention, are effective, but only for those motivated to engage. There are many more sufferers with complex issues who are left isolated and may continue to be socially disabled across their life course.”

The study appears in The Lancet Psychiatry.

For the research, investigators used the therapy on 154 patients aged 16-35 during a two-year period. They found the most effective outcomes were for those who received both the early intervention services provided by the NHS, followed by a nine-month period of social recovery therapy.

During social recovery therapy, patients and therapists worked together in a three-stage program that involved identifying goals and expectations, followed by preparing pathways to match those goals (including referral to relevant vocational agencies, education providers and community providers of social and sports activities).

The final stage of the program required patients and therapists to focus on managing debilitating symptoms, such as negative beliefs and feelings of stigma, while engaging in new activities.

“The key to the therapy is to see clients in their own homes and to work closely with them,” said Fowler.

“We identified those most socially withdrawn as spending less than 30 hours a week outside of their home and found that, through a combination of early intervention services and social recovery therapy, we can increase that weekly structured activity by eight hours.

“This is a meaningful and measurable success, which gives great hope not just to the individuals, but also their families.

“Our hope is that this now provides a framework for training others, especially in identifying young people at risk of developing disorders at an earlier stage.”

Source: University of Sussex