Individuals with schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSD) are at heightened risk for exposure to stressful life events which can lead to increased sensitivity to stress and a dysregulated stress response, which are in turn associated with poor long-term functioning. Stress reactivity is thus a promising treatment target in the early stages of SSD. Integrated-Coping Awareness Therapy (I-CAT) is a manualized intervention integrating mindfulness and positive psychology to target a dysregulated stress response in SSD. The current study is a preliminary randomized-controlled trial (RCT) comparing I-CAT (n = 18) with treatment as usual (TAU; n = 18) in individuals in the early stages of SSD. I-CAT was hypothesized to be more effective than TAU on primary outcomes: increasing positive emotions, decreasing negative emotions, reducing stress, and improving functioning and quality of life; and secondary outcomes: reducing symptoms, increasing mindfulness, and improving overall well-being. Excellent therapy attendance rates, low study attrition, and positive participant feedback demonstrated that I-CAT was a feasible and well-tolerated psychosocial intervention. Results suggest I-CAT led to greater reduction in symptoms (i.e., overall, negative, and disorganized symptoms), increased observational mindfulness, increased endorsement of a sense of purpose in life, and preservation of work abilities and school social functioning compared with TAU. Future work should replicate and extend these findings in a larger-scale RCT.
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