– Imogen Bell, 9th July 2019
Cognitive behavioural therapy for psychosis (CBTp) has an interesting history. CBT was developed as a psychological therapy following research conducted in the 1960s by cognitive therapist and theorist, Dr Aaron T. Beck, along-side other significant figures including Dr Albert Ellis. The central premise of CBT is that the way you think effects the way you feel and behave, so there is a focus on identifying and adapting unhelpful beliefs that serve to maintain psychological problems.
CBT was initially developed as a way to treat things like anxiety and depression. Many believed that it wouldn’t work for something like schizophrenia due to a focus on biological causes and the assumption that strongly held beliefs and unusual experiences are difficult to work with. However, independent groups of researchers around the 1980s and 1990s conducted early work to apply the cognitive model to psychosis.They found that beliefs about the self, others and the world underpinned the distress associated with psychotic experiences and that these were modifiable using CBT treatment.
This was a major advancement, but research was typically carried out without much communication or collaboration between research groups. To address this, Dr Beck started an initiative to bring together world leaders in CBTp research at an annual conference known as BeckFest.
Skip to July 2019, and over 80 leaders in CBTp research from around the world came to Philadelphia to share the latest developments in research focusing on advancing CBTp with the collective goal of making CBTp more effective and accessible for all.
ECHR members Imogen Belland Abigail Wright were lucky enough to attend BeckFest this year and are happy to report that hearing voices was a topic of some presentations. I presented my findings about a smartphone-based intervention for hearing voices. Felicity Waite, a researcher from Oxford University, presented some very novel findings on body image concerns amongst people with psychotic experiences and how the content of what voices say often reflects this. Felicity suggested that these concerns might act to maintain these experiences, offering a novel and important target for intervention. David van den Bergfrom the University of Amsterdam presented findings of a network analysis of hearing voices using the experience sampling method, which involves measuring phenomena as they arise in their natural environment. Another research study using network analysis was presented by ECHR member Amy Hardy, looking at networks of trauma symptoms in psychosis. Many of the studies presented at the conference are soon to be published, so follow @echrgroupon Twitter for updates!
The conference was a showcase of cutting-edge research in an evolving field, with presentations spanning mechanisms and models, to implementation and training. As an early career researcher, it was an inspiring and humble experience to connect with some of the world’s best researchers in this field. A huge thanks to the conference organisers at the Aaron T. Beck Center for Recovery-Oriented Cognitive Therapy Research and Practice!