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Around two-thirds of patients with auditory hallucinations experience derogatory and threatening voices (DTVs). Understandably, when these voices are believed then common consequences can be depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation. There is a need for treatment targeted at promoting distance from such voice content. The first step in this treatment development is to understand why patients listen to and believe voices that are appraised as malevolent.
To learn from patients their reasons for listening to and believing DTVs.
Theoretical sampling was used to recruit 15 participants with non-affective psychosis from NHS services who heard daily DTVs. Data were obtained by semi-structured interviews and analysed using grounded theory.
Six higher-order categories for why patients listen and/or believe voices were theorised. These were: (i) to understand the voices (e.g. what is their motive?); (ii) to be alert to the threat (e.g. prepared for what might happen); (iii) a normal instinct to rely on sensory information; (iv) the voices can be of people they know; (v) the DTVs use strategies (e.g. repetition) to capture attention; and (vi) patients feel so worn down it is hard to resist the voice experience (e.g. too mentally defeated to dismiss comments). In total, 21 reasons were identified, with all participants endorsing multiple reasons.
The study generated a wide range of reasons why patients listen to and believe DTVs. Awareness of these reasons can help clinicians understand the patient experience and also identify targets in psychological intervention.
The Green et al., Paranoid Thoughts Scale (GPTS) – comprising two 16-item scales assessing ideas of reference (Part A) and ideas of persecution (Part B) – was developed over a decade ago. Our aim was to conduct the first large-scale psychometric evaluation.
In total, 10 551 individuals provided GPTS data. Four hundred and twenty-two patients with psychosis and 805 non-clinical individuals completed GPTS Parts A and B. An additional 1743 patients with psychosis and 7581 non-clinical individuals completed GPTS Part B. Factor analysis, item response theory, and receiver operating characteristic analyses were conducted.
The original two-factor structure of the GPTS had an inadequate model fit: Part A did not form a unidimensional scale and multiple items were locally dependant. A Revised-GPTS (R-GPTS) was formed, comprising eight-item ideas of reference and 10-item ideas of persecution subscales, which had an excellent model fit. All items in the new Reference (a = 2.09–3.67) and Persecution (a = 2.37–4.38) scales were strongly discriminative of shifts in paranoia and had high reliability across the spectrum of severity (a > 0.90). The R-GPTS score ranges are: average (Reference: 0–9; Persecution: 0–4); elevated (Reference: 10–15; Persecution: 5–10); moderately severe (Reference: 16–20; Persecution:11–17); severe (Reference: 21–24; Persecution: 18–27); and very severe (Reference: 25+; Persecution: 28+). Recommended cut-offs on the persecution scale are 11 to discriminate clinical levels of persecutory ideation and 18 for a likely persecutory delusion.
The psychometric evaluation indicated a need to improve the GPTS. The R-GPTS is a more precise measure, has excellent psychometric properties, and is recommended for future studies of paranoia.
Background: Almost all patients admitted at acute crisis to a psychiatric ward experience clinically significant symptoms of insomnia. Ward environments pose challenges to both sleep and the delivery of therapy. Despite this, there is no description of how to adapt cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for insomnia to overcome these challenges. Aims: (i) To describe the key insomnia presentations observed in the Oxford Ward Sleep Solution (OWLS) trial and (ii) outline key adaptations aimed to increase accessibility and hence effectiveness of CBT for insomnia for a ward setting. Methods: Trial therapists collaboratively agreed the key insomnia presentations and therapy adaptations based on their individual reflective logs used during the trial. Results: Three key insomnia presentations are outlined. These are used to illustrate the application of 10 CBT for insomnia therapy adaptations. These include use of sleep monitoring watches to engage patients in treatment, stabilizing circadian rhythms, reducing the impact of night-time observations and managing discharge as a sleep challenge. Conclusions: Whilst inpatient wards bring challenges for sleep and therapy delivery, creative adaptations can increase the accessibility of evidence based CBT for insomnia techniques. This therapy has proven popular with patients.
When patients are admitted onto psychiatric wards, sleep problems are highly prevalent. We carried out the first trial testing a psychological sleep treatment at acute admission (Oxford Ward sLeep Solution, OWLS).
This assessor-blind parallel-group pilot trial randomised patients to receive sleep treatment at acute crisis [STAC, plus standard care (SC)], or SC alone (1 : 1). STAC included cognitive–behavioural therapy (CBT) for insomnia, sleep monitoring and light/dark exposure for circadian entrainment, delivered over 2 weeks. Assessments took place at 0, 2, 4 and 12 weeks. Feasibility outcomes assessed recruitment, retention of participants and uptake of the therapy. Primary efficacy outcomes were the Insomnia Severity Index and Warwick–Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale at week 2. Analyses were intention-to-treat, estimating treatment effect with 95% confidence intervals.
Between October 2015 and July 2016, 40 participants were recruited (from 43 assessed eligible). All participants offered STAC completed treatment (mean sessions received = 8.6, s.d. = 1.5). All participants completed the primary end point. Compared with SC, STAC led to large effect size (ES) reductions in insomnia at week 2 (adjusted mean difference −4.6, 95% CI −7.7 to −1.4, ES −0.9), a small improvement in psychological wellbeing (adjusted mean difference 3.7, 95% CI −2.8 to 10.1, ES 0.3) and patients were discharged 8.5 days earlier. One patient in the STAC group had an adverse event, unrelated to participation.
In this challenging environment for research, the trial was feasible. Therapy uptake was high. STAC may be a highly effective treatment for sleep disturbance on wards with potential wider benefits on wellbeing and admission length.
Background: Our view is that sleep disturbance may be a contributory causal factor in the development and maintenance of psychotic experiences. A recent series of randomized controlled intervention studies has shown that cognitive-behavioural approaches can improve sleep in people with psychotic experiences. However, the effects of psychological intervention for improving sleep have not been evaluated in young people at ultra-high risk of psychosis. Improving sleep might prevent later transition to a mental health disorder. Aims: To assess the feasibility and acceptability of an intervention targeting sleep disturbance in young people at ultra-high risk of psychosis. Method: Patients were sought from NHS mental health services. Twelve young people at ultra-high risk of psychosis with sleep problems were offered an eight-session adapted CBT intervention for sleep problems. The core treatment techniques were stimulus control, circadian realignment, and regulating day-time activity. Participants were assessed before and after treatment and at a one month follow-up. Results: All eligible patients referred to the study agreed to take part. Eleven patients completed the intervention, and one patient withdrew after two sessions. Of those who completed treatment, the attendance rate was 89% and an average of 7.6 sessions (SD = 0.5) were attended. There were large effect size improvements in sleep. Post-treatment, six patients fell below the recommended cut-off for clinical insomnia. There were also improvements in negative affect and psychotic experiences. Conclusion: This uncontrolled feasibility study indicates that treating sleep problems in young people at ultra-high of psychosis is feasible, acceptable, and may be associated with clinical benefits.
Persecutory delusions may be unfounded threat beliefs maintained by
safety-seeking behaviours that prevent disconfirmatory evidence being
successfully processed. Use of virtual reality could facilitate new
To test the hypothesis that enabling patients to test the threat
predictions of persecutory delusions in virtual reality social
environments with the dropping of safety-seeking behaviours (virtual
reality cognitive therapy) would lead to greater delusion reduction than
exposure alone (virtual reality exposure).
Conviction in delusions and distress in a real-world situation were
assessed in 30 patients with persecutory delusions. Patients were then
randomised to virtual reality cognitive therapy or virtual reality
exposure, both with 30 min in graded virtual reality social environments.
Delusion conviction and real-world distress were then reassessed.
In comparison with exposure, virtual reality cognitive therapy led to
large reductions in delusional conviction (reduction 22.0%,
P = 0.024, Cohen's d = 1.3) and
real-world distress (reduction 19.6%, P = 0.020, Cohen's
d = 0.8).
Cognitive therapy using virtual reality could prove highly effective in
Background: Many patients do not respond adequately to current pharmacological or psychological treatments for psychosis. Persistent persecutory delusions are common in clinical services, and cause considerable patient distress and impairment. Our aim has been to build a new translational personalized treatment, with the potential for wide use, that leads to high rates of recovery in persistent persecutory delusions. We have been developing, and evaluating individually, brief modular interventions, each targeting a key causal factor identified from our cognitive model. These modules are now combined in “The Feeling Safe Programme”. Aims: To test the feasibility of a new translational modular treatment for persistent persecutory delusions and provide initial efficacy data. Method: 12 patients with persistent persecutory delusions in the context of non-affective psychosis were offered the 6-month Feeling Safe Programme. After assessment, patients chose from a personalized menu of treatment options. Four weekly baseline assessments were carried out, followed by monthly assessments. Recovery in the delusion was defined as conviction falling below 50% (greater doubt than certainty). Results: 11 patients completed the intervention. One patient withdrew before the first monthly assessment due to physical health problems. An average of 20 sessions (SD = 4.4) were received. Posttreatment, 7 out of 11 (64%) patients had recovery in their persistent delusions. Satisfaction ratings were high. Conclusions: The Feeling Safe Programme is feasible to use and was associated with large clinical benefits. To our knowledge this is the first treatment report focused on delusion recovery. The treatment will be tested in a randomized controlled trial.
Previous research has indicated that nightmares might be a common problem for people with psychotic symptoms. Furthermore, more distressing nightmares have been associated with higher levels of delusional severity, depression, anxiety, stress and working memory. However no known research has investigated the use of nightmare treatments in those with symptoms of psychosis. This study aimed to assess the acceptability and feasibility of using imagery rehearsal (IR) therapy as a treatment of nightmares for those presenting with co-morbid psychotic symptoms. Six participants presenting with frequent distressing nightmares and psychotic symptoms were recruited. Five participants attended 4–6 sessions of IR. Measures of nightmares, sleep quality, psychotic and affective symptoms were completed at baseline and immediately following the intervention. It was feasible to adapt IR for those experiencing psychotic symptoms. Descriptive improvements were noted on measures of nightmare-related distress, vividness and intensity. Positive post-session feedback endorsed the acceptability of IR. Nightmare frequency did not reduce following IR; however, participants described a change in emotional response. IR was an acceptable and feasible intervention for this small sample. A larger study powered to detect group changes, with an additional control is warranted to test the efficacy of the intervention for those with psychosis.
Background: Sleep disturbance is increasingly recognized as a major problem for patients with schizophrenia but it is rarely the direct focus of treatment. The main recommended treatment for insomnia is cognitive behavioural therapy, which we have been evaluating for patients with current delusions and hallucinations in the context of non-affective psychosis. Aims: In this article we describe the lessons we have learned about clinical presentations of sleep problems in schizophrenia and the adaptations to intervention that we recommend for patients with current delusions and hallucinations. Method: Twelve factors that may particularly contribute to sleep problems in schizophrenia are identified. These include delusions and hallucinations interfering with sleep, attempts to use sleep as an escape from voices, circadian rhythm disruption, insufficient daytime activity, and fear of the bed, based upon past adverse experiences. Specific adaptations for psychological treatment related to each factor are described. Conclusions: Our experience is that patients want help to improve their sleep; sleep problems in schizophrenia should be treated with evidence-based interventions, and that the interventions may have the added benefit of lessening the psychotic experiences. A treatment technique hierarchy is proposed for ease of translation to clinical practice.
To explore what young people who self-harm think about online self-harm discussion forums. SharpTalk was set up to facilitate shared learning between health professionals and young people who self-harm. We extracted themes and illustrative statements from the online discussion and asked participants to rate statements.
Of 77 young people who participated in the forum, 47 completed the questionnaire. They said they learned more about mental health issues from online discussion forums than from information sites, found it easier to talk about self-harm to strangers than to family or friends, and preferred to talk online than face-to-face or on the telephone. They valued the anonymity the forums provided and reported feeling more able to disclose and less likely to be judged online than in ‘real life’.
Mental health professionals should be aware of the value of anonymous online discussion forums for some young people who self-harm, so that they can talk about them and assess their use with their patients.
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