Worry is common among individuals with psychosis and has been found to be a causal factor in the development of paranoia. Previous research has shown that a cognitive behavioural therapy protocol targeting worry helps to reduce persecutory delusions and associated distress in a population experiencing longstanding psychotic symptoms. However, there has yet to be a published adaptation of the protocol for individuals experiencing a recent onset of psychosis. The current study aims to examine the feasibility of adapting the worry intervention for recent onset psychosis in a group setting. Six young adults with a recent onset of psychosis, aged 18–32 years, participated in a pilot study of an 8-week group intervention covering cognitive behavioural strategies for managing worry, including worry periods, worry postponement techniques, mindfulness and relaxation, and problem solving. Pre- and post-intervention data were collected on worry, anxiety, depressive symptoms, psychotic symptoms, and perceived recovery from psychosis. In addition, qualitative feedback from group members was gathered during a post-intervention focus group. Feasibility of the group appeared promising, despite high participant attrition. All components of the intervention were successfully implemented, and group members provided positive feedback regarding acceptability of the group. Contrary to prediction, there was not a consistent decrease in worry from pre- to post-intervention. Findings from secondary symptom measures were mixed and may have been related to participants’ subjective experience of the group. Specifically, participants who experienced high levels of group cohesion seemed to benefit more from the intervention.
Key learning aims
(1) To gain awareness of the gaps in treatment for early psychosis.
(2) To understand the role of worry in psychosis.
(3) To learn about the feasibility of implementing a group worry intervention for recent onset psychosis.
(4) To consider the impact of group cohesion and symptom severity on treatment engagement.