A Proof of Concept Trial of an Online Psychoeducational Program for Relatives of Both Veterans and Civilians Living with Schizophrenia

VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System at West Los Angeles, CA 90073, USA.
Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal (Impact Factor: 1.16). 03/2010; 33(4):278-87. DOI: 10.2975/33.4.2010.278.287
Source: PubMed


Family psychoeducation has been found to reduce relapse in schizophrenia but penetration rates are low. In this study, we evaluate the feasibility of an online multifamily group program for relatives of persons with schizophrenia that can be accessed from participants' homes.
We explored participation rates and evaluations of a 12-month multimodal website intervention. Using a quasi-experimental design, we compared illness outcomes (factors on the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale, hospitalizations) of persons with diagnosed schizophrenia, and relative distress outcomes (somatic concerns and anxiety/depression subscales on the Brief Symptom Inventory) from relatives participating in the intervention (n = 26) to archival data we had from comparable dyads who received customary care (n = 16).
The majority of participants in the program attended more than half the core online support sessions, expressed high levels of satisfaction, and found the technology easy to access. There appeared to be little impact of online participation on clinical status of persons with schizophrenia or relatives' distress, although there was a trend for fewer hospitalizations in the online group. Small sample size is a factor in interpreting results.
Online interventions for relatives of persons with schizophrenia, while feasible, present unique challenges. These include 1) assuring access to the intervention in populations who do not own a computer; 2) addressing privacy concerns; 3) overcoming the special challenges of conducting groups in real time; 4) managing emergent situations adequately; and 5) questions about efficacy.

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    • "Multi-component interventions for these conditions commonly include: information sharing, networked peer support, electronic resources and facilitated discussion forums [18]; but much less work has been done in the field of severe mental illness [19,20]. To date, there are only three known exploratory controlled trials evaluating online psychoeducational interventions with service users with psychosis and their family carers in the U.S.A. [19,21,22] and with service users with bipolar disorder in Australia [23]. In the UK, a few online blogs and information-giving websites have been established by leading charities over the last few years (for example:[24] and[25]). "
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