The Importance of Early Intervention in Psychosis

February 18, 2021

For individuals experiencing psychosis for the first time, the sudden nature of the first episode can not only be jarring, but downright scary as well. That’s where Wyandot Center’s Early Intervention Team (EIT) steps in to help support and manage those early experiences.

“People can live really happy, fulfilling lives while still hearing voices and experiencing delusions,” says Jordan Graves, EIT Therapist. “It’s just the fear and confusion that disrupts their lives. It takes you a really long time to make sense of what’s going on when things change so fast. That’s what makes early intervention so important.”

While early intervention itself is important when it comes to supporting individuals experiencing psychosis, the creation of trust and rapport between a consumer and their service provider is equally important. Graves says it takes flexibility, creativity and patience to build that trust.

“When you are living in an extreme state of fear and confusion, it’s hard enough to talk to people you’re closest to in your life about what’s going on,” says Graves.

“Every single week, I am just astonished by the strength and persistence and growth that they experience. They are experiencing one of the scariest things that I can imagine. They’re out here living, progressing and figuring out what they want to do and doing it.”

Jordan Graves, EIT Therapist

Graves and the rest of EIT are working to become experts and a valuable resource for individuals experiencing psychosis. EIT is also expanding who they serve. In past years, the Early Intervention Team focused on serving individuals who were experiencing psychosis for the first time who were also likely to have that be part of a chronic disorder, like schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.

EIT team leader Maria Loconsolo says over the past year or so, the team has expanded to serve anyone ages 15 to 36 who is experiencing psychosis for the first time. Research has shown that early intervention is key to improving outcomes.

In order to provide full support to those experiencing psychosis, the Early Intervention Team offers a number of services, including therapy, case management, family support, medication services and vocational case management. The treatment and support provided focuses not only on the symptoms of psychosis, including hallucinations and delusions, but also the fear that accompanies these sudden and often unexpected episodes.

In its efforts to expand and improve services, the Early Intervention Team has recently begun to utilize Recovery-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CT-R) and voice mapping as part of its approach to treatment. CT-R is an evidence-based treatment that involves making sense of an individual’s experiences and then identifying ways an individual can regain power over their life and achieve their goals.

Voice mapping is one tool that Graves uses in therapy. Through voice mapping, Graves says she is able to work with consumers to identify and understand the voices they experience. This increased understanding can help to identify patterns in symptoms, resulting in an opportunity for consumers to gain more control over their experiences.

“The goal is not to get rid of the voices,” says Graves. “The goal is to make sense of it.”

Loconsolo says she is excited about the addition of these new treatment tools and the evolving paradigm of the program. In the months to come, Loconsolo and her team are hoping to continue to host more client engagement activities while also exploring additional treatment options, thanks to grant funding from the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS).

In addition to providing services like therapy and case management, the Early Intervention Team also plans events where clients can interact in a low-intensity setting. In November 2020, the EIT program hosted a petting zoo day for clients. Pictured above: EIT Therapist Jordan Graves (left) and EIT Team Leader Maria Loconsolo take part in the petting zoo day.

“We want to continue to enrich our understanding and perspective of treatment of early psychosis – really flesh it out and make it accessible to a far greater audience,” says Loconsolo. “We have tons of resources within the program and we want to serve as many people as possible.”

As the program continues to evolve, one thing doesn’t change. Loconsolo and Graves say they are consistently in awe of the individuals and families they work with.

“Every single week, I am just astonished by the strength and persistence and growth that they experience,” says Graves. “They are experiencing one of the scariest things that I can imagine. They’re out here living, progressing and figuring out what they want to do and doing it.”

“The parents and family members that we get to work with – their strength blows me away every time,” says Loconsolo. “They still continue through all of the challenges and all of the hardship to love and to care.”