Psychosis Patients Prioritize Non-Psychosis Issues in Therapy, Study Finds

In therapy for psychosis, most patients prioritize non-psychosis issues; over 20% didn't mention psychosis at all.


A new article published in Behavioral and Cognitive Psychotherapy finds that most service users participating in a cognitive behavioral therapy trial for psychosis (CBTp) identify something other than psychosis as their “priority problem.”

Strikingly, this study found that more than one in five participants did not list psychosis among their problems at all. Participants in an early intervention services program were the most likely to include psychosis in their list of concerns. As the researchers, led by Anthony P. Morrison and Clåudia C. Gonçalves, noted:

“The findings of this study suggest that psychiatric symptom reduction is not the primary goal of CBTp for most service users, particularly those who are not under the care of EI (early intervention) services.”

Traditional treatment often places psychosis front and center. However, this research sheds light on how service users often place other concerns, such as anxiety and social issues, ahead of their psychosis.

The current work aimed to assess the different types of problems experienced by participants in CBTp trials. To accomplish this goal, the researchers examined problem lists made by 104 participants in four CBTp trials conducted in Manchester between 2012 and 2020.

To be eligible for inclusion in the current research, participants had to fill out a ranked problems and goals list during their CBTp interventions. These lists contained between 1 and 7 problems identified by the service users. These lists were analyzed by both a clinical psychologist and a service user researcher, and the issues were sorted into 23 categories. An additional clinical psychologist resolved discrepancies in categorizing the problems.

Findings revealed that “59.62% of participants listed a non-psychosis-related priority problem, and 22.12% did not list any psychosis-related problems.”

In total, participants listed 125 psychosis-related problems (29.69%) and 296 non-psychosis-related problems (70.31%).” Of the 296 non-psychosis-related problems listed by participants, the most common were anxiety (17.6% of all issues listed), social problems (9.3% of all problems listed), and mood problems (8.8% of all issues listed).

59.62% of participants listed a non-psychosis-related problem as their priority, compared to 40.38% that listed psychosis as their priority. 77.88% of participants listed at least one psychosis-related problem compared to 22.12% that did not.

Significantly more early intervention services program participants listed psychosis as a problem and were less likely than participants in other services to leave psychosis off their problem lists. 88.2% of participants receiving early intervention services listed psychosis as a problem compared to 66.7% of participants in other services. Just 11.8% of early intervention services participants left psychosis off their problem list compared to 33.3% receiving other services. Community mental health team interventions had the highest proportion of participants that left psychosis off their problem lists (48.5%).

Given the observed trend, the authors acknowledged the implications this shift in focus might have for future research and clinical practice. The study uncovers a potential gap between the conventional approach of prioritizing psychiatric symptom reduction and what service users may actually want from their therapy.

This raises thought-provoking questions about the traditional approach to CBTp, as it brings to light a potentially more patient-centered approach, focusing on holistic aspects of recovery over merely mitigating symptoms.

While this work is groundbreaking, the authors also concede the study’s limitations. Case formulations were not considered in the current work, meaning some problems listed as non-psychosis-related may have been related to psychosis. For example, “anxiety” was categorized as a non-psychosis-related problem but could have been a side effect of hearing discouraging or hostile voices. Some participants may not have listed or prioritized psychosis as a problem because they were already experiencing relief from psychosis due to antipsychotic medication. However, the authors note that 2 of the four included trials did not use antipsychotic drugs.

The number of participants in the current work was relatively small, making generalization difficult. Additionally, all participants were recruited from within Manchester, limiting generalizability to other populations.

This unique study illuminates how individuals undergoing CBTp perceive their treatment, illuminating a strong inclination towards tackling broader, holistic aspects of recovery over mere symptom reduction. It’s a clarion call for mental health professionals to reassess how they address the needs and priorities of those undergoing CBTp. The authors conclude:

“These findings suggest that symptom reduction may not be the main goal for most service users in CBTp. This builds on previous research on treatment outcome preferences and recovery goals, showing that service users often favor holistic recovery over symptomatic improvement. Participants from EI services were more likely to identify psychosis-related goals than those from other teams, in particular, CMHTs; this is consistent with service users wanting to eradicate symptoms after the initial onset but with progression to managing a life with symptoms after persistence and/or recurrence of symptoms becomes evident.”





Morrison, A. P., Gonçalves, C. C., Peel, H., Larkin, A., & Bowe, S. E. (2023). Identifying types of problems and relative priorities in the problem lists of participants in CBT for psychosis trials. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 1–12. (Link)

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Richard Sears
Richard Sears teaches psychology at West Georgia Technical College and is studying to receive a PhD in consciousness and society from the University of West Georgia. He has previously worked in crisis stabilization units as an intake assessor and crisis line operator. His current research interests include the delineation between institutions and the individuals that make them up, dehumanization and its relationship to exaltation, and natural substitutes for potentially harmful psychopharmacological interventions.


  1. I’d argue that all of these things (“psychosis”, anxiety, social problems) are symptoms – of trauma. But certainly, one aspect of good therapy work is addressing what a client wants to work on rather than imposing your own agenda.

    Using cognitive/behavioral therapy for trauma-based symptoms is surface-level treatment at best, but that’s a separate issue. 🙂

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  2. “Traditional treatment often places psychosis front and center.” No sh-t, Sherlock. My former psychologist was absolutely obsessed with “voices.” She turned an unknown “voice” in the parking lot of Nordstrom’s into “psychosis.” She also turned a dream query into “psychosis.” Everything was “voices” to my former “psychosis front and center,” insanely “voices” obsessed, and as it eventually turned out to be (according to my child’s medical records) child abuse covering up, former psychologist.

    “The study uncovers a potential gap between the conventional approach of prioritizing psychiatric symptom reduction and what service users may actually want from their therapy.” There is not a “potential gap,” it’s more like a “great divide.” Especially given the fact that the DSM – the belief system of the “mental health” industries – is scientifically “invalid,” thus insane to those who are not so indoctrinated.

    And the flaw in the DSM, which makes it impossible for any “mental health professional” to ever honestly bill to help any child abuse survivor ever.

    “Some participants may not have listed or prioritized psychosis as a problem because they were already experiencing relief from psychosis due to antipsychotic medication.”

    Apparently, Richard, you are still unaware of the fact that both the antidepressants and antipsychotics can create “psychosis,” via anticholinergic toxidrome, a medically known way to poison a person?

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  3. there is not mental health law in turkey. psychiatries in turkey request mental health law but psychiatries in turkey imprison a weak people by force although there is no mental health law. a people who diagnosed schizophrenia them by psychiatry is appointed a guardian so a people who was diagnosed schizophrenia cannot sue in court. a people who was diagnosed schizophrenia them by psychiatries always exploits boht their family and psychiatries and the state. a people who was diagnosed schizophrenia them by psychiatries can not make a voice for fear . the state in turkey always requests to diagnose schizophrenia to three groups
    3.those who request conscientious objection in military service

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      • can l request to ask you.there is not psychiatrists who support to anti psychiatry in turkey. the people who says to psychiatrist ‘psychiatry is a fake scinece’ is said by psychiatrists ‘you is insane or is you psychiatrist’.is it like that there. l think psychiatrists is taking in vain 6 year of medical education. a peoples in turkey does not know rosenhan’s test. a peoples in turkey suppose that psychiatrists diagnose blood test.psychiatrists in turkey are constantly lying to family and society

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        • There are most likely some in Turkey who know the truth. But it may be hard to find each other. Most countries are dominated by people who are “true believers” in psychiatry and tend to attack and humiliate those who don’t agree with them.

          It may be that you are the one who will have to educate others about what you’ve learned. We are all in the minority!

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  4. I was trained to work with the patient at the patient’s reality level. The goal was to make the patient better not to cure them. It worked for me. I worked for three years in a psychiatric hospital in London and got on great with the patients but the staff shunned me.

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