The present study is a confirmatory efficacy trial of Family Focused Therapy for youth at clinical high risk for psychosis (FFT-CHR). This trial is sponsored by seven mature CHR clinical research programs from the North American Prodrome Longitudinal Study (NAPLS). The young clinical high risk sample (N = 220 youth ages 13-25) is to be followed at 6-month intervals for 18 months.
This randomized, single blind trial will compare outcomes from a 6-month FFT-CHR intervention and a control condition (enhanced care, or EC) matched to the FFT-CHR in duration (6 months) and access to a clinician. Participants families in FFT-CHR are provided 18 family sessions augmented by a therapy app with content and surveys, while participants in the EC condition are provided three family sessions plus five monthly individual support and case management sessions. Duration of therapy sessions is one hour.
Main Goals of FFT-CHR (Experimental Treatment)
- To assist young clients and their family in: developing a common understanding of CHR symptoms; recognizing early signs of escalating symptoms; practicing individual and family coping strategies; and pre-planning family responses to any escalation in symptoms. When families have poor understanding of CHR symptoms and strategies for their management, this can fuel stressful home dynamics and contribute to youth withdrawal and decompensation.
- For the youth and their family members to learn to express more constructive messages during their interactions, particularly regarding highly charged topics such as curbing risky behaviors and management of the offspring's symptoms.
- For youth and family members to practice skills for resolving family or extrafamilial conflicts (usually those related to the youth's functioning) through effective communication and problem solving
The control condition, Enhanced Care (EC) shares the psychoeducation goal of FFT-CHR but is more oriented toward skill-training for the individual patient. Whereas it does not offer the same level of opportunity for families to build communication and problem-solving skills, the family is actively involved in helping the individual develop a relapse prevention plan. Monthly individual sessions focus on the development of individual coping skills such as symptom tracking and problem-solving. Both conditions require families to submit real-time mobile app surveys to assist with progress tracking.
The primary clinical outcomes are prodromal positive symptom scores examined immediately after treatment (6 months) and at 18 months. Secondary outcomes are time to remission of positive symptoms and psychosocial functioning over 18 months. Temporal relationships between early changes in treatment targets and later changes in symptoms or psychosocial functioning will also be examined.
- FFT-CHR (vs. EC) will be associated with greater improvement in positive symptoms by end of therapy and follow-up (6 and 18 months), and greater high-risk syndrome remission and better psychosocial functioning at 18 months
- FFT-CHR (vs. EC) will be associated with greater improvement in family communication and problem solving at 6 months
- FFT-CHR (vs. EC) will be associated with greater improvement in youth-perceived parental criticism at 6 months. In turn, improvements in family communication, problem-solving and youths' perceptions of criticism will be associated with downstream improvements in the youths' primary outcomes (positive symptoms) and secondary outcomes (time to remission and psychosocial functioning) over 18 months. Thus, improvements in family functioning are hypothesized to mediate the relationship between treatment condition (FFT-CHR, EC) and changes in primary and secondary outcomes in the individual with CHR syndrome.
- CHR individuals with higher baseline risk of conversion are hypothesized to improve more on family communication over 6 months and primary and secondary outcomes over 18 months in FFT-CHR than in EC.