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Social Recovery Therapy

Social recovery therapy is a cognitive-behavioral intervention designed to help restore a more capable mental state to young people with schizophrenia by improving social skills and encouraging more participation in social activities. The goal is to help people during first-episode psychosis increase the amount of time they spend actively involved in social settings to thrive in their community, rather than merely survive as “outsiders,” and thereby preventing long-term social disability.

When It's Used

Social recovery oriented cognitive behavioral therapy is used to identify and address the needs of adolescents and young adults with early psychosis, multi-faceted comorbidities, and severe social disabilities who are not motivated to engage in structured activities. Proponents suggest that social recovery therapy plus early intervention during the first episode of psychosis is critical for preventing the early social decline associated with a poor long-term prognosis for schizophrenia because motivation to change is highest in the early stages of diagnosis.

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What to Expect

In addition to helping people adjust to work, education and leisure activities by learning and practicing necessary skills in a safe environment, social recovery interventions aim to ease any feelings of anxiety or hopelessness that may interfere with social success. Patient and therapist work closely together to establish social goals and expectations, then match those goals to relevant agencies and activities, such as vocational counselors, educational groups, and community centers that host sports and other social activities. At the same time, therapy focuses on reducing any negative emotions that are interfering with the ability to engage in new activities.

How It Works

Historically, there has been some debate among psychotherapeutic professionals as to the true value of social recovery therapy as an early intervention treatment for people with psychosis. While many of these patients already receive early intervention services that can result in partial or even full recovery, some lack the motivation to participate in conventional interventions and continue to have difficulty with social functioning. These early social difficulties invariably become long-term issues of isolation, alienation, and complete lack of integration into the community. In addition to the personal consequences of functional disability, proponents of social recovery therapy point out the financial strain on the community as a result of lost productivity. Early studies indicate that social recovery-oriented cognitive behavior therapy with early intervention is well received and helps increase the amount of time patients spend on structured activities by as much as eight hours a week. Ongoing research is helping to determine the long-term benefits and effects of social recovery therapy for people with schizophrenia and for society at large.

What to Look for in a Social Recovery Therapist

Look for a licensed mental health professional with specialized training in cognitive-behavioral therapy, knowledge of social recovery interventions, and experience working with younger people in early stages of schizophrenia. In addition to these credentials, it is important to find a therapist with whom you and your family feel comfortable working.

References
Fowler D, Hodgekins J, French P, et al. Social recovery therapy in combination with early intervention services for enhancement of social recovery in patients with first-episode psychosis (SUPEREDEN3): a single-blind, randomised controlled trial. The Lancet Psychiatry. January 2018;5(1):41-50
Fowler, Hodgekins, French P, et al. Social recovery therapy in improving activity and social outcomes in early psychosis: Current evidence and longer term outcomes. Schizophrenia Research. October 22, 2017. 
Gee B, Notley C, Bryne R et al. Young people’s experiences of Social Recovery Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and treatment as usual in the PRODIGY trial. Early Intervention in Psychiatry. September 2016.
Hopper, K. Rethinking social recovery in schizophrenia: What a capabilities approach might offer. Social Science & Medicine. September 2007;65(5):868-879.