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NIHR psychosis therapy trial shows potential life-changing benefits

Half of patients with psychosis on a new therapy programme demonstrated significant benefits, according to the results of an NIHR-funded clinical trial.

The newly-published study findings demonstrated potentially life-changing benefits for patients from the new Feeling Safe programme, which is designed to support those with psychosis to return to everyday activities.

In total, 50% of patients in the study achieved significant benefits from the Feeling Safe programme, with a further 25% making moderate gains.

As a result, the Feeling Safe programme has been highlighted as the most effective psychological treatment for persecutory delusions (unfounded, strong beliefs that other people intend to harm you).

The therapy is delivered across 20 sessions, with patients fully involved with decisions about their treatment.

In particular, the treatment is based on the belief that people facing persecutory delusions can make gains by trying out everyday things, with the therapy helping patients to develop new memories of safety and address factors that often maintain persecutory thoughts, such as worry, poor sleep and low self-confidence.

The clinical trial was led by NIHR Research Professor Daniel Freeman, Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford, with his research team being supported by the NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre.

Within the trial, researchers conducted a randomised controlled trial with 130 patients for whom delusions persisted despite standard treatments.

Professor Freeman said: “Feeling Safe is the result of more than ten years of research and clinical practice, built on listening carefully to patients to really understand the causes of the problems they face.

“The trial results give us great cause for optimism in the treatment of a problem that is very common in people with psychosis, immensely distressing for patients and families, and yet often does not improve sufficiently with current treatments.”

It is hoped the new treatment can make substantial differences to the quality of life for people with psychosis, particularly persecutory delusions, which can often have deep impacts to a person’s health and wellbeing.

Four out of five people affected are unemployed and withdrawn from social and leisure activities, with life expectancy on average 14.5 years shorter, due to largely preventable health conditions exacerbated by inactivity.

Dr Felicity Waite, Clinical Psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford, added: “So many of the patients we visited were spending virtually all their time at home.

“Our aim was to bring them back into everyday life, to help them get back to the things they like doing. The positive change Feeling Safe brought about is wonderful to see.”

NHE March/April 2024

NHE March/April 2024

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