Hearing voices (i.e., auditory verbal hallucinations) during adolescence indicates a risk for severe psychopathology, functional impairments, and suicide later in life. However, evidence-based, specialized psychological treatments for youth with distressing voices across mental disorders have been scare. The aim of the current study is to examine the efficacy of a cognitive behavioral therapy for voices (CBTv), delivered using smartphone-based Ecological Momentary Intervention (EMI), in a transdiagnostic sample of youth (14-25 years old). In a randomized controlled trial, eight weeks of CBTv-based EMI in addition to treatment as usual (TAU) is compared with TAU only, with voice-related distress after the intervention being the primary outcome. The trial offers a low-intensity psychological intervention that, using a mobile technology approach, may match the treatment preferences of young people who show low engagement with conventional mental health services. Thus, with this study we aim at making a significant contribution to early intervention for young people with distressing voices who have been an under-researched group.

For more information on the study, see the protocol paper:

Cavelti, Marialuisa; Kaeser, Janko M; Lerch, Stefan; Bauer, Stephanie; Moessner, Markus; Berger, Thomas; Hayward, Mark; Kaess, Michael (2022). Smartphone-assisted guided self-help cognitive behavioral therapy for young people with distressing voices (SmartVoices): study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. Trials, 23(1), p. 902. BioMed Central 10.1186/s13063-022-06846-0

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Personality disorders (PDs) have adverse personal, social, and economic consequences. Typically, PDs manifest during the transitional phase from puberty to emerging adulthood. Diagnosing PDs in adolescence is now more broadly accepted and evidence-based, and early detection and intervention for PDs in young people have demonstrated positive effects on the life trajectories of the affected young people. The recent paradigm shift in diagnostic classification of PDs, transitioning from discrete categories to dimensional constructs, has raised questions as to how this applies to young people, as research is limited in this group. The goal of the EARLY study is to identify early signs of the development of PDs and to examine whether the new dimensional concept of PDs is as useful for the diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of PDs in children and adolescents as it is in adults. The study is open to children and adolescents aged 6 to 17 and their parents, who are interviewed every 3 years. EARLY is being conducted in close collaboration with Dr Marc Birkhölzer from the University Psychiatric Clinics Basel, Switzerland, who is leading this multi-centre study.

The aims of the study are twofold: First, to evaluate the effect of feedback on treatment outcome in adolescent inpatients with mental disorders, and second, to identify early markers of non-response. Participants are randomly assigned to either the Treatment as Usual (TAU) + feedback group or the TAU no feedback group. In the TAU + feedback group, treatment progress of the participants is reported to therapists on a weekly basis. Changes in psychopathology and biological correlates as well as in therapeutic alliance and attitudes towards treatment during the treatment are continuously assessed in both groups, using clinical interviews, questionnaires, ecological momentary assessment (EMA), Electrocardiogram (ECG), and actigraphy.

Project manager: Dr Marialuisa Cavelti 

MERIT is being conducted in close collaboration with Prof Michael Kaess’s group (P.I. of the study).

Ready4life is a smartphone application designed by the Lungenliga beider Basel to prevent the use of addictive substances and promote life skills among adolescents and young adults. Our team focuses on the development and implementation of the social media and gaming module. We are currently testing the effectiveness of a just-in-time intervention to reduce problematic use of social media and gaming. This research is carried out in close collaboration with PD Dr. Andrea Wyssen (P.I.: Prof. Michael Kaess).