Moderated Online Social Therapy for Recovery From Early Psychosis

  • Gleeson J
  • Alvarez-Jimenez M
  • Lederman R
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Psychotic disorders are among the most distressing and disabling of psychiatric conditions. Their onset, characteristically in late adolescence when young people face significant developmental challenges, poses a significant risk of lifelong disability and compromised mental and physical health. Recurrent psychotic episodes, poor physical health, long-term unemployment, social anxiety, substance abuse, chronic depression, and even suicide are causes for concern after first-episode psychosis. Over the preceding 20 years, specialist early psychosis programs have evolved internationally in order to provide a more timely treatment and to support young people in achieving symptomatic remission and eventual full recovery. Members of our group have also developed and evaluated a program for the prevention of weight gain associated with first-episode psychosis, which had a similar early, but unsustained pattern of results. Taken together, these results highlight the need to maintain effective psychosocial interventions over the long term after the onset of first-episode psychosis. One strategy our team has been working on is the utilization of information and communication technology (ICT), which has already frequently been applied to the treatment of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. These Internet-based therapies have typically facilitated the interaction of a single user with an automated education program. We have formulated a new model of providing online interventions for first-episode psychosis and built a Web-based intervention informed by the model. Called the moderated online social therapy model, our ICT model has been developed by a multidisciplinary team of clinical psychologists, a computer programmer, a health informatics expert, a Web designer, a writer, and a graphic designer. The Web site integrates therapy modules (our "coach menu") with a private moderated social networking function (our "cafe menu"). The modules begin with an interactive welcome segment. Subsequent interactive modules address psychoeducation, relapse prevention, stigma and social anxiety, early warning signs of relapse, depression, and identification and use of personal strengths. A separate moderator interface enables daily guidance of discussions, risk monitoring, and tracking patterns of use. We suspect that this will be both an effective relapse prevention tool as well as a highly appealing and intuitive structure for young people to engage with each other and with expert moderators. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)

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  • John F. M. Gleeson

  • Mario Alvarez-Jimenez

  • Reeva Lederman

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