Treating young individuals at clinical high risk for psychosis

Early Interv Psychiatry. 2012 Feb;6(1):60-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-7893.2011.00299.x. Epub 2011 Sep 23.


Background: Typically, studies investigating those at clinical high risk for psychosis have focused on predictors of conversion and treatments that might prevent conversion to full-blown psychosis. Few studies have followed those who do not go on to develop a psychotic illness.

Methods: Participants were 48 young people who were at risk for developing psychosis based on the Structured Interview for Prodromal Symptoms criteria and participated in a treatment programme where they were offered up to 6 months of psychosocial treatment and psychiatric management. Attenuated psychotic symptoms, negative symptoms, depression, anxiety, social functioning, alcohol and drug use, and meta-cognitive beliefs were assessed at baseline, 6, 12 and 18 months. Personality characteristics were assessed at baseline. Medication use was tracked and psychiatric visits were logged over the 18-month study period.

Results: On average, participants attended 12 sessions of psychosocial treatment and had one meeting with the psychiatrist every 6 months. Only 24% were ever prescribed any psychotropic medications, and antipsychotics were not used. Significant improvements were found over time in attenuated positive symptoms, negative symptoms, depression, anxiety, meta-cognitions and social functioning with most improvement occurring in the first 6 months. There was no change in the level of substance use. For personality assessment, participants generally scored high on neuroticism and openness and had low scores on extraversion, agreeableness and conscientiousness.

Conclusion: With minimal treatment and no antipsychotics, young people who present as being at risk for developing a psychotic disorder demonstrate clinical improvement over time. However, a few continued to have the liability of ongoing attenuated psychotic symptoms.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cognition
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Early Medical Intervention / methods*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Personality Assessment / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Psychotic Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Psychotic Disorders / drug therapy
  • Psychotic Disorders / therapy*
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use


  • Psychotropic Drugs