New approach to treating mental illness

La Trobe University is leading the way in new mental health research which emphasises a social treatment approach - not just medication - for people living with conditions such as Schizophrenia.

Psychologists Associate Professor John Farhall and Dr Eric Morris have been conducting trials in Melbourne and London applying a relatively new therapy model called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, (ACT)  to patients with serious mental health issues - and early progress is promising.

A/Professor Farhall says ACT can be useful for some people who continue to have recovery challenges or distressing psychotic experiences despite taking anti-psychotic medication.

'By observing their experiences in a different way, and taking action based on personal values, consumers can better focus on a meaningful life rather than the persisting illness.

'Recovery-oriented therapies  are not routinely offered to people with psychosis – the preoccupation of stretched mental health services is on taking the biomedical route. We need to get some balance back and provide psychological and social  approaches that have reasonable evidence of effectiveness to give consumers the best chance of getting on with their lives.'            

A/Professor Farhall will present the findings of the first full randomised controlled trial of ACT  for persisting symptoms at the inaugural ISPS, ( International Society for Psychological and Social Approaches to Psychosis ) Australian Conference being held at La Trobe.

Dr Morris will discuss the results of several studies of group ACT  for personal recovery and wellbeing,including groups co-led with people who have lived experience of psychosis.  

Mental health practitioners and consumers from around Australia will be joined by international experts  to promote further innovation in psychological and social approaches to helping people who are living with serious mental health challenges.

Among other topics – international speakers will look at how utilising family and social networks quickly and the offering of practical support can help reduce hospital rates for people experiencing a first episode of psychosis.

Targeted social and cognitive therapies will also be examined as part of effective alternatives to a drug-only response.

Media Contact; Catherine Garrett; 9479 6565 / 0418 964 325

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