Background: Early intervention services have demonstrated improved outcomes in first episode psychosis (FEP); however, recent evidence shows that treatment benefits may not be sustainable over time. These findings have resulted in repeated recommendations for the implementation of longer term treatment programs. An Internet-based intervention specifically designed for young people with psychosis may provide a cost-effective alternative to prevent loss of treatment benefits from early intervention.
Methods: Our multi-disciplinary team has developed a highly novel online intervention (HORYZONS) in regular consultation with stakeholders within a specialist early psychosis program. HORYZONS integrates: i) peer-to-peer social networking, ii) individually tailored interactive psychosocial interventions, and iii) expert interdisciplinary and peer-moderation in a coherent platform designed to improve long-term outcomes in FEP. The acceptability, safety and initial clinical benefits of HORYZONS were examined through a 1-month pilot study with 20 participants with FEP.
Results: There were no dropouts during the pilot study. Seventy per cent of participants utilised the system for at least 3weeks, 95% used the social networking features, and 60% completed at least 3 therapy modules. System usage was high during the study. There were no incidents and the majority of participants reported feeling safe, empowered and more socially connected using HORYZONS. Analysis revealed a significant reduction in depressive symptoms at follow-up.
Conclusions: Our results indicate that HORYZONS is feasible, engaging and safe and may augment social connectedness and empowerment in FEP. These findings have significant implications for the enhancement of specialist FEP services. The potential of HORYZONS to improve long-term recovery is worthy of further investigation.
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