Specialized early intervention by a team providing assertive community treatment (ACT) is beneficial to the recovery, housing, and employment of individuals with schizophrenia, but few studies have examined its effect on social support. This study assessed whether the ACT model of care was related to clinical and social outcomes among patients who had experienced a first episode of psychosis.
The sample was drawn from the Lambeth Early Onset Trial, a study of 144 patients in the United Kingdom who sought treatment for a first episode of psychosis between January 2000 and October 2001 and who were randomly assigned to a specialized early intervention modeled on ACT or standard care. The Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale, the Global Assessment of Functioning, and the Significant Others Scale were administered at six-month and 18-month follow-ups.
Data on social support were available at both follow-ups for 57 patients assigned to specialized care and 50 patients assigned to standard care. The two groups were similar in personal characteristics, relationship status, and living arrangements at baseline and at six-month follow-up, but by 18 months, patients in specialized care reported having a higher mean±SD number of significant others in their social networks than did standard care patients (2.40±1.20 and 1.71±1.06, respectively; p=.01). They also achieved superior clinical outcomes at 18 months, and these outcomes were associated with network size.
Early intervention by using an ACT model of care may improve clinical results by reestablishing or maintaining bonds between patients and family, friends, and acquaintances. (Psychiatric Services 63:216–222, 2012; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.201100132)