Mobile-Assisted Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Negative Symptoms: Open Single-Arm Trial With Schizophrenia Patients

JMIR Ment Health. 2020 Dec 1;7(12):e24406. doi: 10.2196/24406.


Background: Negative symptoms are an important unmet treatment need for schizophrenia. This study is a preliminary, open, single-arm trial of a novel hybrid intervention called mobile-assisted cognitive behavioral therapy for negative symptoms (mCBTn).

Objective: The primary aim was to test whether mCBTn was feasible and could reduce severity of the target mechanism, defeatist performance attitudes, which are associated with experiential negative symptoms and poor functioning in schizophrenia.

Methods: Participants with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder (N=31) who met prospective criteria for persistent negative symptoms were enrolled. The blended intervention combines weekly in-person group therapy with a smartphone app called CBT2go. The app extended therapy group skills, including recovery goal setting, thought challenging, scheduling of pleasurable activities and social interactions, and pleasure-savoring interventions to modify defeatist attitudes and improve experiential negative symptoms.

Results: Retention was excellent (87% at 18 weeks), and severity of defeatist attitudes and experiential negative symptoms declined significantly in the mCBTn intervention with large effect sizes.

Conclusions: The findings suggest that mCBTn is a feasible and potentially effective treatment for experiential negative symptoms, if confirmed in a larger randomized controlled trial. The findings also provide support for the defeatist attitude model of experiential negative symptoms and suggest that blended technology-supported interventions such as mCBTn can strengthen and shorten intensive psychosocial interventions for schizophrenia.

Trial registration: NCT03179696;

Keywords: blended intervention; dysfunctional attitudes; mHealth; mobile phone; motivation; persistent negative symptoms.

Associated data