Family Psychoeducation Improves Psychotic Symptoms in Adolescents

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Families are often involved in the care of loved ones who are at risk for psychiatric disorders. But just how effective is involving families in therapy at improving psychotic symptoms?

David J. Miklowitz, PhD, of UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine, and a team of researchers examined whether a six-month program of family psychoeducation reduced the severity of positive and negative psychotic symptoms among individuals at high risk for psychoses.

Adolescents and young adults (mean age 17.4 ± 4.1 years) with positive psychotic symptoms, brief and intermittent psychosis, or genetic risk with functional deterioration were randomly assigned to 18 sessions of family-focused therapy for individuals at clinical high risk (FFT-CHR) during a six month period or three sessions of family psychoeducation (enhanced care [EC]).

Results, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, showed that of the 129 participants, 102 (79.1%) completed follow-up at six months. Participants in the FFT-CHR group had greater improvements in attenuated positive symptoms after six months than participants in EC (F1,97 = 5.49, P= 0.02). Negative symptoms improved independently of psychosocial treatments. The results were independent of concurrent pharmacotherapy.

“Interventions that focus on improving family relationships may have prophylactic efficacy in individuals at high risk for psychosis,” the researcher concluded. “Future studies should examine the specificity of effects of family intervention compared to individual therapy of the same duration and frequency.”

Family-Focused Treatment for Adolescents and Young Adults at High Risk for Psychosis
Family-Focused Treatment for Adolescents and Young Adults at High Risk for Psychosis
Longitudinal studies have begun to clarify the phenotypic characteristics of adolescents and young adults at clinical high risk for psychosis. This 8-site randomized trial examined whether a 6-month program of family psychoeducation was effective in reducing the severity of attenuated positive and negative psychotic symptoms and enhancing functioning among individuals at high risk.
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