First Episode Psychosis

First Episode Psychosis

Research Leader

Professor Patrick McGorry

Overview

Building upon earlier work at the Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention Centre (EPPIC) and the Personal Assessment and Crisis Evaluation (PACE) Clinic, this research stream is well established. It focuses on a broad range of biological and psychosocial investigations and interventions in prodromal and first-episode psychosis and mania.

Current Research Areas

Trauma and first episode psychosis

Leader

Dr Sarah Bendall

Team

Mario Alvarez-Jimenez; Eoin Killackey; Kelly Allott; Gennady Baksheev; Michael Kaess; Craig McNeil; Alison Hughes; Sylvia Collinetti; Clare Shelton; Martina Jovev; Richard Bell; Shona Francey; Patrick McGorry; Emma Barlow

Collaborators

Henry Jackson; Lisa Phillips; Carol Hulbert, Psychological Sciences, The University of Melbourne

Key Achievements

Australian Rotary Health Project Grant for the TRIPP study (2012-2014). Dr Sarah Bendall was awarded a NHMRC Early Career Fellowship

Research Overview

Many young people with first episode psychosis have experienced traumas such as sexual, physical and emotional abuse in their childhood. The experience of acute psychosis can also be very traumatic for young people with psychosis. However, we know very little about the etiological relationship between trauma and psychosis; the mechanisms involved, or the best treatments for people with FEP who have experienced trauma. Our research projects are designed to investigate all these issues.

Current Research Projects

TRIPP (Trauma-informed psychotherapy for psychosis)

TRIPP is a randomized controlled trial of a novel cognitive behaviourally based intervention for the symptoms of trauma in young people with first episode psychosis at EPPIC. The trauma intervention is being compared with EPPIC treatment as usual. Five EPPIC case managers are delivering the allocated intervention to consenting participants over a 6-month period.

Investigating the relationship amongst trauma, post-traumatic sequelae, cognition, and functioning in first episode psychosis: What should be our targets for therapeutic interventions?

We are currently conducting a research study investigating the mechanisms by which traumatic experiences confer a risk for psychosis. We are assessing young people with first episode psychosis for past trauma, psychotic symptoms, post-traumatic stress disorder, dissociation, and cognitive mechanisms that have been theorised to underlie the relationships amongst trauma, the above trauma sequelae and psychotic symptoms. Such mechanisms include early maladaptive schemas, external source misattributions and selective attention. Further, we are interested in the impact on these variables on the functioning of young people with trauma and psychosis. This project involves the assessment of a cohort of young people with FEP at EPPIC.

Novel Interventions for First Episode Psychosis

Leader

Dr Mario Alvarez-Jimenez

Members

Dr Sarah Bendall, A/Prof Eoin Killackey, Prof Helen Hermann, Prof Patrick McGorry, A/Prof Sue Cotton, Gina Chinnery, Sonya Vargas, Melissa Thurley, Dylan Alexander, Clare Kentmann 

Key Collaborators

Prof John Gleeson, School of Psychology, The Australian Catholic University; Dr Reeva Lederman, The Department of Computing and Information Systems, The University of Melbourne; Dr Greg Wadley, The Department of Computing and Information Systems, The University of Melbourne; Dr Cathrine Mihalopoulos, Deakin Health Economics, Deakin University; Prof David Penn, Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

Key Achievements

The team was awarded competitive grants from the Telstra Foundation, The Telematics Trust, The Helen MacPherson Trust, The University of Melbourne, and The Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society (IBES) to support the development and testing of innovative online interventions for young people suffering from psychosis. Dr Mario Alvarez-Jimenez was awarded the 2012 International Early Psychosis Association Young Investigator Award and the University of Melbourne Early Career Researcher Grants.

Research Overview

Specialist early intervention services have changed the face of psychosis treatment by improving psychotic symptoms, reducing relapse rates, and fostering engagement with services and patient satisfaction. However, there are major challenges to achieving the aims of early intervention, including the long-term maintenance of treatment benefits from specialist services and the translation of symptomatic improvements into full functional recovery. Our team investigates novel treatment approaches including online interventions and new psychotherapeutic approaches to realize the full potential of early intervention and bring about long-term recovery.

Current Research Projects

The HORYZONS project

The aim of the HORYZONS is to answer the important question of whether the clinical benefits of specialised first episode psychosis (FEP) programmes can be extended into long-term improvements through the use of an innovative, cost-effective, online psychosocial intervention.

The LIFE project: Online Lifestyle Interventions in First Episode Psychosis

The aim of the LIFE project is to develop and test internet-based interventions (LIFE) to improve the physical health of young people suffering from psychosis.

The PPEP project: Positive Psychotherapy in Early Psychosis project

Too often the focus of treatment of people with mental illness is on their illnesses and their weaknesses. While not ignoring work that needs to be done in that area, positive psychology also focuses on the strengths that people have and seeks to harness them so that young people with mental illness will not just recover, but flourish. The PPEP project aims to evaluate the effectiveness of Positive Psychotherapy for Early Psychosis (PPEP) specifically designed to improve functional and social recovery in young people suffering from psychosis.

Cognition, Functioning and Psychosis

Leader

Dr Kelly Allott

Members

RA’s – Emma Barlow, Pamela Sun

PhD student – Rothanthi Daglas

Key Achievement

NHMRC Early Career Fellowship awarded to Dr Kelly Allott.

Research Overview

My broad research interests focus on cognition (neurocognition, social cognition) and functioning in psychiatric illness, particularly in youth (15-25 years) with early psychosis. This includes the characteristics of and relationships between cognition and functioning (social, vocational and independent living) in this population. I have a strong interest in developing youth-friendly interventions that target cognitive deficits and other variables that underlie functional impairment or represent barriers to functioning in early psychosis.

Current research project

Feasibility of Cognitive Adaptation Training for First-Episode Psychosis

People with psychosis often experience cognitive problems, such as difficulty in memory, attention and organisation. These difficulties interfere with everyday functioning. This feasibility study is investigating the acceptability of an intervention which helps people compensate for these cognitive difficulties so as to function better in daily life.