Promoting social recovery in young people at risk for psychosis with a novel strengths-based online social therapy.

Twenty years ago, Orygen introduced the first valid criteria to identify young people at ultra high risk (UHR) of developing a psychotic disorder. This had a profound impact on the field, and we now know that pharmacological and psychosocial interventions can effectively protect UHR young people from transitioning to psychosis, at least in the short term. Unfortunately, these interventions have shown little to no impact on the substantial social disability that so often precedes the onset of psychosis and shapes its long-term trajectory. We built Momentum to address this challenge.

Momentum is an online social therapy platform specifically tailored promote social recovery in UHR young people. That is, Momentum is designed to assist young people at risk of psychosis to build social confidence and establish meaningful social connections, engage with education or work, and maintain their mental health. The platform blends two novel approaches to social recovery: strengths-based intervention embedded within a therapeutic social media environment and application of an evidence-based motivation theory (self-determination theory). Momentum weaves together safe and secure peer-to-peer social networking, interactive strengths and self-determination theory-based online therapy, and support by peer workers and clinical psychologists to help young people make the most of their Momentum experience and achieve their life goals. Powered by our most advanced MOSTware system (MOST V3), Momentum harnesses machine learning and natural language processing to monitor social functioning and psychosis symptoms, and deliver a uniquely personalised and responsive therapeutic experience to each young person.

Pilot testing of Momentum indicates that the platform is safe and engaging for young people at risk of psychosis (Alvarez-Jimenez et al., 2018). We will soon evaluate the effectiveness of Momentum through a NHMRC-funded randomised controlled trial involving 220 UHR young people in Melbourne, Australia.