Is loneliness a feasible treatment target in psychosis?



Loneliness is a challenge for individuals with psychosis; however, interventions rarely target loneliness in this group.


We developed a pilot positive psychology group intervention designed to reduce loneliness in psychosis and examined its feasibility and acceptability.


Sixteen participants attended 5.38 (SD = 0.70) out of six sessions, with a dropout rate of 10%. Participants were significantly less lonely at post-treatment (p < 0.001, d = 1.51), and maintained their improvements from post-treatment to follow-up (p = 0.81, d = 0.07).


Loneliness may be a feasible and acceptable treatment target within psychosocial treatments.

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  1. 1.

    18 individuals aged between 18 and 31 years old (M = 22.89, SD = 3.61; 50% women) made up the final sample.

  2. 2.

    While there is no known threshold for problematic or severe loneliness, a score of 40 and above was used to indicate above the median score across different samples [15].

  3. 3.

    As assessed by the risk section in the SCID-5 major depressive episode module; SCID-5 [17].

  4. 4.

    Those who accepted into the group program were strongly advised not to change their medication regime or take on additional therapy offered to them during their involvement in this trial. All participants included in the study reported no changes in treatment during their time of the trial at T2 and T3.

  5. 5.

    The manual was modified and adapted from Parks and Seligman’s (2017) 8-week group positive psychotherapy program.

  6. 6.

    With the exception SCID-5 which was administered at baseline only.

  7. 7.

    The coders did not code the SSPA grooming question as only audio coding was available. The research assistant conducting the assessment coded this item.


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Robert Eres, Claire Peck, Julia Cheah, and Carla McEnery are acknowledged for research assistance on the project. Special thanks to co-group facilitators, Nicole Harris, Yamiko Marama, and Christopher Jillard. Thank you to all participating young people and staff of Eastern Health.


Grant awarded to M.H. Lim from the Swinburne Development Fund.

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Correspondence to M. H. Lim.

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This article is part of the focused issue ‘Loneliness: contemporary insights on causes, correlates, and consequences’.

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Lim, M.H., Penn, D.L., Thomas, N. et al. Is loneliness a feasible treatment target in psychosis?. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 55, 901–906 (2020).

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  • Loneliness
  • Psychosis
  • Social anxiety
  • Positive psychotherapy intervention