Development of an mHealth support specialist for early psychosis caregivers in Washington State

Project Type(s):

Principal Investigator(s):

Early intervention can significantly improve the trajectory of a young adult at risk for psychosis. Specialized treatment programs for youth at risk are associated with reduced symptoms and relapse risk and increased functioning. Family caregivers play a critical role in facilitating treatment engagement and recovery, but too often they lack the support they need. Specialty psychosis services providing psychoeducation for family members are expanding but still difficult to access. Caregivers face many barriers to care: limited providers and session time availability, long travel times, or patient ambivalence about treatment. As a result, a minority of youth with early psychosis have caregivers that have accessed standard-of-care family interventions.

To address these gaps, our team developed Bolster, a mobile health (mHealth) app designed to provide psychoeducation, communication coaching, and self-care support to caregivers to youth at risk for psychosis. In preliminary work, Bolster was feasible to deliver, acceptable to caregivers, and showed promising efficacy. However, mHealth interventions that are supplemented by a human clinical support have higher engagement and effectiveness than those that are purely self-guided. To optimally implement mHealth for early psychosis caregivers, there is a need for development of this clinical workforce.

We propose to develop and pilot an emerging clinical role – the mHealth support specialist (mHSS) – equipped specifically to support caregivers to youth with early psychosis. Specifically, we will (1) develop a training and supervision framework supporting the mHSS for caregivers, (2) test this framework through training and supervising one mHSS, and (3) evaluate this approach as the mHSS provides support to caregivers to young adults with early psychosis throughout Washington State. Delivering this intervention has the potential to greatly expand population access to evidence-based strategies for psychosis. Developing the mHealth support specialist model would make Washington a national leader in scalable digital interventions for caregivers. This study takes a critical step toward realizing that vision.

Project Period:
January 1, 2024 December 31, 2024

Funding Type(s):
Philanthropy, State/UW

Garvey Institute for Brain Health Solutions

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Practice Type(s):
Online/remote/apps/social media

Patient Population(s):

Targeted Condition(s):