Using a brief intervention to improve decisional capacity in schizophrenia research

Schizophr Bull. 2006 Jan;32(1):116-20. doi: 10.1093/schbul/sbi066. Epub 2005 Sep 21.


Studies have shown that individuals with psychiatric or general medical illness can benefit from interventions designed to enhance decisional capacity for research informed consent. In some cases, interventions have been rather lengthy or complex. The current study was designed to determine whether a brief intervention could improve decisional capacity in people with schizophrenia. Thirty individuals with schizophrenia and 30 healthy comparison participants were presented with a hypothetical research scenario. Decisional capacity was assessed with the MacArthur Competence Assessment Tool-Clinical Research version. Those with schizophrenia received a brief intervention aimed at improving understanding of the research protocol, after which decisional capacity was reassessed. A neuropsychological battery and symptom rating scales were also administered. At baseline, the schizophrenia group earned significantly lower scores than the comparison group on 2 aspects of decisional capacity (understanding, appreciation). At follow-up, the schizophrenia group had improved significantly on understanding and was no longer significantly different from the comparison group on any of the 4 dimensions of decisional capacity. Follow-up analyses also showed a significant effect of the intervention on a subset of the schizophrenia group who had performed most poorly at baseline. Participants with schizophrenia earned significantly lower scores than those in the comparison group across multiple neuropsychological domains. These findings add to the existing literature indicating that brief interventions can improve decisional capacity in individuals with schizophrenia, despite the fact that the illness typically causes significant cognitive dysfunction. The use of such interventions will enable a larger number of people with schizophrenia to make informed decisions regarding research participation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Competency*
  • Psychotherapy, Brief / methods*
  • Schizophrenia / therapy*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*