JMIR Ment Health 2016 Dec 13;3(4):e52. Epub 2016 Dec 13.
Department of Psychiatry, University Of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, United States.
Background: Numerous psychosocial interventions for individuals with chronic psychotic disorders (CPD) have shown positive effects on social cognitive and functional outcome measures. However, access to and engagement with these interventions remains limited. This is partly because these interventions require specially trained therapists, are not available in all clinical settings, and have a high scheduling burden for participants, usually requiring a commitment of several weeks. Delivering interventions remotely via mobile devices may facilitate access, improve scheduling flexibility, and decrease participant burden, thus improving adherence to intervention requirements. To address these needs, we designed the Creating Live Interactions to Mitigate Barriers (CLIMB) digital intervention, which aims to enhance social functioning in people with CPD. CLIMB consists of two treatment components: a computerized social cognition training (SCT) program and optimized remote group therapy (ORGT). ORGT is an innovative treatment that combines remote group therapy with group texting (short message service, SMS).
Objectives: The objectives of this single-arm study were to investigate the feasibility of delivering 6 weeks of CLIMB to people with CPD and explore the initial effects on outcomes.
Methods: Participants were recruited, screened and enrolled via the Internet, and delivered assessments and interventions remotely using provided tablets (iPads). Participants were asked to complete 18 hours of SCT and to attend 6 remote group therapy sessions. To assess feasibility, adherence to study procedures, attrition rates, engagement metrics, and acceptability of the intervention were evaluated. Changes on measures of social cognition, quality of life, and symptoms were also explored.
Results: In total, 27 participants were enrolled over 12 months. Remote assessments were completed successfully on 96% (26/27) of the enrolled participants. Retention in the 6-week trial was 78% (21/27). Of all the iPads used, 95% (22/23) were returned undamaged at the end of the intervention. Participants on average attended 84% of the group therapy sessions, completed a median of 9.5 hours of SCT, and posted a median of 5.2 messages per week on the group text chat. Participants rated CLIMB in the medium range in usability, acceptability, enjoyment, and perceived benefit. Participants showed significant improvements in emotion identification abilities for prosodic happiness (P=.001), prosodic happiness intensity (P=.04), and facial anger (P=.04), with large within-group effect sizes (d=.60 to d=.86). Trend-level improvements were observed on aspects of quality of life (P values less than .09). No improvements were observed for symptoms.
Conclusions: It is feasible and acceptable to remotely deliver an intervention aimed at enhancing social functioning in people with CPD using mobile devices. This approach may represent a scalable method to increase treatment access and adherence. Our pilot data also demonstrate within-group gains in some aspects of social cognition after 6 weeks of CLIMB. Future randomized controlled studies in larger samples should evaluate the extent to which CLIMB significantly improves social cognition, symptoms, and quality of life in CPD.