Background: Emerging adults with early psychosis demonstrate high rates of service disengagement from critical early intervention services. Decision support interventions and peer support have both been shown to enhance service engagement but are understudied in this population. The purposes of this article are to describe the development of a novel peer-delivered decision coaching intervention for this population and to report plans for a pilot study designed to gather preliminary data about its feasibility, acceptability, and potential impact. Methods: The intervention was developed based on formative qualitative data and in collaboration with a diverse team of researchers, key stakeholders, and expert consultants. The pilot trial will utilize a single-group (N = 20), pre-post, convergent mixed methods design to explore whether and how the intervention addresses decision-making needs (the primary intervention target). The impact of the intervention on secondary outcomes (e.g., engagement in the program) will also be assessed. Additionally, through observation and feedback from the peer decision coach and study participants, we will evaluate the feasibility of research and intervention procedures, and the acceptability of information and support from the peer decision coach. Discussion: The peer-delivered decision coaching intervention holds promise for assisting young people with making informed and values-consistent decisions about their care, and potentially enhancing service engagement within this traditionally difficult-to-engage population. If the intervention demonstrates feasibility and acceptability, and pilot data show its potential for improving treatment decision-making, our work will also lay the foundation for a new evidence base regarding roles for peer specialists on early intervention teams.
Aim: Many emerging adults disengage from early intervention in psychosis (EIP) services prematurely. Service disengagement may be in part due to having unresolved treatment decision-making needs about use of mental health services. A basic understanding of the decision-making needs of this population is lacking. The purpose of this qualitative study was to identify the range of treatment decisions that emerging adults face during their initial engagement in an EIP program and elucidate barriers and facilitators to decision-making. Methods: Twenty emerging adults with early psychosis were administered semi-structured interviews to capture treatment decision-making experiences during the first six months after enrollment in an EIP program. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Responses were independently coded by two authors using an integrated thematic analysis approach; differences in coding were discussed to consensus. Data analysis was facilitated using NVivo 12 Plus. Results: Emerging adults identified numerous decisions faced after EIP enrollment. Decisions pertaining to life and treatment goals and to starting and continuing psychiatric medication were commonly selected as the most difficult/complicated. Decision-making barriers included not having the right amount or type of information/knowledge; social factors (e.g., lacking social support, opposition/pressure); lacking internal resources (e.g., cognitive and communication skills, self-efficacy, motivation); and unappealing options. Obtaining information/knowledge, social supports (e.g., connection/trust, learning from others’ experiences, encouragement), considering personal values, and time were decision-making facilitators. Conclusions: This study informs development and optimization of interventions to support decision-making among emerging adults with early psychosis, which may promote service engagement.