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Early intervention in psychosis is a clinical approach to those experiencing symptoms of psychosis for the first time. It forms part of the new prevention paradigm for psychiatry[1][2] and is leading to reform of mental health services,[3] especially in the United Kingdom[4][5]. There has been consider academic interest over the past decade[6]

This approach centers on the early detection and treatment of early symptoms of psychosis during the formative years of the psychotic condition. The first three to five years are believed to be a critical period.[7] The aim is to reduce the usual delays to treatment for those in their first episode of psychosis. The provision of optimal treatments in these early years is thought to prevent relapses and reduce the long term impact of the condition. It is considered a secondary prevention strategy.

The duration of untreated psychosis (DUP) has been shown as an indicator of prognosis, with a longer DUP associated with more long term disability.[8]

Components of the model[]

There are a number of functional components of the early psychosis model,[9][10][11] and they can be structured as different sub-teams within early psychosis services. The emerging pattern of sub teams are currently:

Early psychosis treatment teams[]

Multiple discipline clinical teams providing an intensive case management approach for the first three to five years. The approach is similar to assertive community treatment, but with an increased focus on the engagement and treatment of this previously untreated population and the provision of evidence based, optimal interventions for clients in their first episode of psychosis. For example, the use of low-dose antipsychotic medication is promoted ("start low, go slow"), with a need for monitoring of side effects and an intensive and deliberate period of psycho-education for patients and families that are new to the mental health system. Interventions to prevent a further episodes of psychosis (a "relapse") and strategies that encourage a return to normal vocation and social activity are a priority. There is a concept of phase specific treatment for acute, early recovery and late recovery periods in the first episode of psychosis.

Early detection function[]

Interventions aimed at improving the detection and engagement of those early in the course of their psychotic conditions.[12] Key tasks include being aware of early signs of psychosis and improving pathways into treatment. Teams provide information and education to the general public and assist GPs with recognition and response to those with suspected signs, e.g. EPPIC's[13] Youth Access Team (YAT)[14] (Melbourne), OPUS[15] (Denmark) TIPS[16] (Norway), REDIRECT[17] (Birmingham), LEO CAT (London).[18]

Prodrome or "at risk mental state" clinics[]

Specialist services for those with subclinical symptoms of psychosis or other strong indicators of risk of transition to psychosis. The PACE clinic [1] in Melbourne, Australia, is considered one of the origins of this strategy [19], along with the IOP based service OASIS in South London [20], and Yale medical school based clinic, PRIME [2]. These services are able to reliably identify those at high risk of developing psychosis [21] and are beginning to publish encouraging outcomes from randomised controlled trials that reduce the chances of becoming psychotic [22], including evidence that psychological therapy [23] and high doses of fish oil [24] have a role in the prevention of psychosis.


Early intervention in psychosis is a preventative approach for psychosis that has evolved as contemporary recovery views of psychosis and schizophrenia have gained acceptance. It subscribes to a "post Kraepelin" concept of schizophrenia, challenging the current assumptions originally promoted by Emil Kraepelin in the 19th century, that schizophrenia (or dementia praecox) was a condition with a progressing and deteriorating course. Psychosis is now formulated within a diathesis–stress model, allowing a more hopeful view of prognosis, and expects full recovery for those with early emerging psychotic symptoms. It is more aligned with psychosis as continuum (e..g as with the concept of Schizotypy) with multiple contributing factors, rather than schizophrenia as simply a neurobiological disease.

Within this changing view of psychosis and schizophrenia, the model has developed from a divergence of several different ideas, and from a number of sites beginning with the closure of psychiatric institutions signaling move toward community based care (e.g. Falloon [25]). In 1986, the Northwick Park study[26] discovered an associated between delays to treatment and disability, questioning the service provision for those with their first episode of schizophrenia. In the 1990s, cognitive behavioural therapy emerged as a treatment paradigm for delusions and hallucinations, predominately in the United Kingdom.[How to reference and link to summary or text] The next step came with the development of the EPPIC early detection service in Melbourne, Australia in 1996[13] and the prodrome clinic led by Alison Yung. This service was an inspiration to other services, such as the West Midlands IRIS group, including the consumer non-governmental organisation Rethink; the TIPS early detection randomised control trial in Norway;[16] and the Danish OPUS trial.[15] In 2001, the United Kingdom Department of Health called the development of early psychosis teams a priority.[27] The International Early Psychosis Association, founded in 1998, issued an international consensus declaration together with the World Health Organisation in 2004.[28][29] Clinical practice guidelines have been written by consensus.[10]

Clinical outcome evidence[]

An early psychosis approach has been shown in formal studies to reduce the severity of symptoms, improve relapse rates, and decreases the use of inpatient care, in comparison to standerd care, at 18 months follow up. These studies also clearly show greater levels of user satisfaction with the service.[30][31][32]. Although the evidence for an ongoing positive impact has yet to be established,[33] some have noted that the underlying assumptions and lack of evidence for the current late intervention standard service approaches make the rationale early intervention overwhelming (Max Birchwood).[34]

The earlier 2006 Cochrane review continues to report a lack of strong research evidence for specific early detection and early intervention programmes, although does acknowledge the need to intervene earlier for those with psychosis.[35] Since that time, the emerging evidence on treatment outcome for early psychosis is positive.[36]

Current literature on cost[]

Evidence from the United Kingdom suggests that the costs of an early psychosis service are considerably less compared to standard care with one year costs for early psychosis teams (£9422) two thirds the cost of standard teams (£14394).[37] This is maintained at year 3 and is thought to be due to the reduce inpatient costs with the more intensive community follow up provided by early psychosis services.

An Australia historical comparison of direct health costs found a clear econmoic advantage for an early psychosis approach compared to standard care, at 12 month follow up [38]. Also see the October 2008 report by Access Economics Pty Limited[39] commissioned by Orygen Research Centre in Melbourne which concludes "EI not only costs nearly $AUS2000 less per person annually than TAU (treatment as usual) in trial-related costs, it also saves nearly $AUS1500 in health system and other financial saving to society of nearly $AUD9000 per patient per year" (page 32). This does not take into account the potential benefits of EI in reducing suicides and positive impact on vocational outcomes.

Reform of mental health services[]

United Kingdom[]

The United Kingdom has probably made the most significant service reform with their adoption of early psychosis teams, with early psychosis now considered as an integral part of comprehensive community mental health services. The Mental Health Policy Implementation Guide (2001)[27] outlines service specifications and forms the basis of a newly developed fidelity tool (Birchwood, unpublished). There is a requirement for services to reduce the duration of untreated psychosis, as this has been shown to be associated with better long term outcome. The implementation guideline recommends:

  • 14 to 35 year age entry criteria
  • First three years of psychotic illness
  • Aim to reduce the duration of untreated psychosis to less than 3 months
  • Maximum caseload ratio of 1 care coordinator to 10-15 clients
  • For every 250,000, (depending on population characteristics) one team
    • total caseload 120 to 150
    • 1.5 doctors per team
    • Other specialist staff to provide specific evidence based interventions

Australia & New Zealand[]

Services have spread from the origin founding EPPIC initiative in Melbourne (Victoria, Australia) since the 1990s [How to reference and link to summary or text]

New Zealand has operated significant early psychosis teams for more than ten years, following the inclusion of early psychosis in a mental health policy document in 1997 (blueprint for mental health service). There is a national early psychosis professional group New Zealand Early Intervention in Psychosis Steering Group, organising training events and producing local resources.


Early psychosis programmes have continued to develop from the original TIPS services in Norway[16] and the OPUS randomised trial in Denmark.[15]

North America[]

Canada has extensive coverage across most provinces including established clinical services and comprehensive academic research in British Columbia (Vancouver), Alberta (EPT in Calgary), and Ontario (PEPP, FEPP).


The first meeting of the Asian Network of Early Psychosis (ANEP) was held in 2004. There are now established services in Singapore[40] and Hong Kong.[41]

See also[]


  1. McGorry PD, Killackey EJ (2002). Early intervention in psychosis: a new evidence based paradigm. Epidemiol Psichiatr Soc 11 (4): 237–47.
  2. McGorry PD, Killackey E, Yung A (October 2008). Early intervention in psychosis: concepts, evidence and future directions. World Psychiatry 7 (3): 148–56.
  3. Killackey E, Yung AR, McGorry PD (2007). Early psychosis: where we've been, where we still have to go. Epidemiol Psichiatr Soc 16 (2): 102–8.
  4. IRIS History of the development of EI in the UK. URL accessed on 2009-12-04.
  5. Joseph R, Birchwood M (September 2005). The national policy reforms for mental health services and the story of early intervention services in the United Kingdom. J Psychiatry Neurosci 30 (5): 362–5.
  6. Columbia’s Jeffrey A. Lieberman: A Mind to Prevent Schizophrenia. ScienceWatch. URL accessed on 2009-12-04.
  7. Birchwood M, Tood P; Jackson C (1988). Early intervention in psychosis: the critical period hypothesis. British Journal of Psychiatry Supplement 33: 53–59.
  8. Marshall M, Lewis S; Lockwood A; Drake R; Jones P; Croudace T (2005). Association between duration of untreated psychosis and outcome in cohorts of first-episode patients: a systematic review. Arch Gen Psychiatry 62 (9): 975–983.
  9. Edwards, J. & McGorry, P.D. (2002) (eds). Implementing Early Intervention in Psychosis. A guide to establishing early psychosis services. London. Martin Dunitz.
  10. 10.0 10.1 International Early Psychosis Association Writing Group (2005). International clinical practice guidelines for early psychosis. British Journal of Psychiatry Supplement 48: s120-s124.
  11. Marshall M, Lockwood A; Lewis S; Fiander M (2004). Essential elements of an early intervention service for psychosis: the opinions of expert clinicians. BMC Psychiatry 4: 17.
  12. Larsen TK, Friis S; Haahr U; Joa I; Johannessen JO; Melle I; Opjordsmoen S; Simonsen E; Vaglum P (2001). Early detection and intervention in first-episode schizophrenia: a critical review. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 103 (5): 323–334.
  13. 13.0 13.1 McGorry PD, Edwards J; Mihalopoulos C; Harrigan SM; Jackson HJ (1996). EPPIC: an evolving system of early detection and optimal management. Schizophrenia Bulletin 22 (2): 305–326.
  14. Youth Access Team (YAT) Staff. URL accessed on 2009-02-14.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Petersen L, Nordentoft M; Jeppesen P; Ohlenschaeger J; Thorup A; Christensen TØ; Krarup G; Dahlstrøm J; Haastrup B; Jørgensen P (2005). Improving 1-year outcome in first-episode psychosis: OPUS trial. British Journal of Psychiatry Supplement 48: s98-s103.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 TIPS webpage. URL accessed on 2009-02-14.
  17. Tait L, Lester H; Birchwood M; Freemantle N; Wilson S (2005). Design of the BiRmingham Early Detection In untREated psyChosis Trial (REDIRECT): cluster randomised controlled trial of general practitioner education in detection of first episode psychosis [ISRCTN87898421]. BMC Health Services Research 5 (1): 19.
  18. Power P, Iacoponi E; Reynolds N; Fisher H; Russell M; Garety P; McGuire PK; Craig T (2007). The Lambeth Early Onset Crisis Assessment Team Study: general practitioner education and access to an early detection team in first-episode psychosis. British Journal of Psychiatry Supplement 51: s133-s139.
  19. Yung AR, McGorry PD, McFarlane CA, Jackson HJ, Patton GC, Rakkar A (1996). Monitoring and care of young people at incipient risk of psychosis. Schizophr Bull 22 (2): 283–303.
  20. Broome MR, Woolley JB, Johns LC, et al (August 2005). Outreach and support in south London (OASIS): implementation of a clinical service for prodromal psychosis and the at risk mental state. Eur. Psychiatry 20 (5-6): 372–8.
  21. Yung AR, Phillips LJ, Yuen HP, et al (March 2003). Psychosis prediction: 12-month follow up of a high-risk ("prodromal") group. Schizophr. Res. 60 (1): 21–32.
  22. McGorry PD, Yung AR, Phillips LJ, et al (October 2002). Randomized controlled trial of interventions designed to reduce the risk of progression to first-episode psychosis in a clinical sample with subthreshold symptoms. Arch. Gen. Psychiatry 59 (10): 921–8.
  23. Morrison AP, French P, Parker S, et al (May 2007). Three-year follow-up of a randomized controlled trial of cognitive therapy for the prevention of psychosis in people at ultrahigh risk. Schizophr Bull 33 (3): 682–7.
  24. Amminger Schäfer, Papageorgiou, Harrigan, Cotton, McGorry, Berger (2008). INDICATED PREVENTION OF PSYCHOTIC DISORDERS WITH LONG-CHAINOMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS: A RANDOMIZED, PLACEBO-CONTROLLED TRIAL Schizophrenia Research, 102, 252
  25. Falloon, I.R. (1992). Early intervention for fist episodes of schizophrenia: A preliminary exploration. Psychiatry, 55, 4-15
  26. Johnstone EC, Crow TJ; Johnson AL; MacMillan JF (1986). The Northwick Park Study of first episodes of schizophrenia. I. Presentation of the illness and problems relating to admission. British Journal of Psychiatry 148: 115–120.
  27. 27.0 27.1 Department of Health (2001) the mental health policy implementation guide. London: Department of Health
  28. Early Psychosis Declaration: An International Consensus Statement about Early Intervention and Recovery for Young People with Early Psychosis. Jointly issued by the World Health Organisation and International Early Psychosis Association.
  29. Bertolote J, McGorry P (2005). Early intervention and recovery for young people with early psychosis: consensus statement. British Journal of Psychiatry Supplement 48: s116-s119.
  30. Craig TK, Garety P, Power P, et al (November 2004). The Lambeth Early Onset (LEO) Team: randomised controlled trial of the effectiveness of specialised care for early psychosis. BMJ 329 (7474): 1067.
  31. Petersen L, Nordentoft M, Jeppesen P, et al (August 2005). Improving 1-year outcome in first-episode psychosis: OPUS trial. Br J Psychiatry Suppl 48: s98–103.
  32. Grawe RW, Falloon IR, Widen JH, Skogvoll E (November 2006). Two years of continued early treatment for recent-onset schizophrenia: a randomised controlled study. Acta Psychiatr Scand 114 (5): 328–36.
  33. Bertelsen M, Jeppesen P, Petersen L, et al (July 2008). Five-year follow-up of a randomized multicenter trial of intensive early intervention vs standard treatment for patients with a first episode of psychotic illness: the OPUS trial. Arch. Gen. Psychiatry 65 (7): 762–71.
  34. Pelosi AJ, Birchwood M (March 2003). Is early intervention for psychosis a waste of valuable resources?. Br J Psychiatry 182: 196–8.
  35. Marshall M, Rathbone J (2006). Early intervention for psychosis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 18 (4): CD004718.
  36. Killackey E, Yung AR (March 2007). Effectiveness of early intervention in psychosis. Curr Opin Psychiatry 20 (2): 121–5.
  37. McCrone P, Knapp M (2007). Economic evaluation of early intervention services. British Journal of Psychiatry Supplement 51: s19-s22.
  38. Mihalopoulos C, McGorry PD, Carter RC (July 1999). Is phase-specific, community-oriented treatment of early psychosis an economically viable method of improving outcome?. Acta Psychiatr Scand 100 (1): 47–55.
  39. Orygen Research Centre (2008). Cost effectiveness of early intervention for psychosis. Access Economics Pty Limited: Melbourne.
  40. Epip. Epip. URL accessed on 2009-02-14.
  41. 「思覺失調」服務計劃. URL accessed on 2009-02-14.

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