A world-first online social therapy for first episode psychosis.

Psychosis is a devastating mental health condition that typically hits young people just as they are shaping their career paths and building meaningful long-term relationships. While specialist early intervention services are highly effective in reducing symptoms of psychosis, many young people remain vulnerable to long term unemployment, social isolation, and relapse following initial intensive treatment.

To address this challenge, our team at Orygen Digital developed a world-first online social therapy for psychosis, called Horyzons. Horyzons was specifically designed to assist young people to resume education or work, re-build social supports, and maintain their mental and physical health following specialist early intervention for first episode psychosis. This was achieved through a seamless integration of novel strengths-based interventions with a therapeutic social media environment. That is, Horyzons wove together peer-to-peer social networking, interactive strengths-based interventions, and support by clinical psychologists, vocational specialists and trained peer workers to ensure the safety of the online platform and guide young people through the therapeutic content.

Developed in 2012, the Horyzons platform provided the initial foundation for our advanced MOSTware system, which is now in its third iteration and powers our diverse suite of social media-based youth mental health interventions. Horyzons (powered by MOSTv2) has been tested via a five-year randomised controlled trial in Melbourne, Australia. One hundred and seventy young people were recruited to the trial as they approached discharge from the EPPIC (Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention Centre) clinic at Orygen Youth Health. Half of these young people were offered the Horyzons intervention for 18 months. The Horyzons trial ended in late 2018, and results are currently under analysis. However, ongoing testing of Horyzons continues in Canada and the USA via our partnerships with leading psychosis researchers at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, McGill University and Columbia University respectively . These international trials will use our upgraded version of Horyzons (powered by MOSTv3), with a revised clinical moderation model and enhanced therapeutic content, interactivity, and personalisation.

Horyzons was made possible by the Telstra Foundation, the Helen MacPherson Smith Trust, the Telematics Trust, the Mental Illness Research Fund, and the State Government of Victoria.