Innovative digital therapy helping patients with paranoia in Sussex. @withoutstigma

A trial for SlowMo, the first digital therapy for paranoia, has been launched in Sussex following trials in London and Oxford.

Sussex Partnership Foundation Trust and the University of Sussex are leading the trial locally for the Sussex area and recruiting participants across Sussex over the next two years.

Pharmacological and psychological treatments can have limited effectiveness for some patients, so this trial is causing a lot of excitement among clinicians keen to find a solution to help patients manage their symptoms and lead a better quality of life.

Senior Research Therapist, Dr Alison McGourty from Sussex Partnership Trust, said: “SlowMo is an app downloaded onto a mobile phone and patients participating in the trial are given a phone to use. Using SlowMo, we work with the person to identify their worries, and then help them find ways to slow down and take a moment when they notice their worries. The idea is that using the app to slow down and take another look at the situation, people can often realise that things aren’t as bad as they first feared or find other ways to manage their worries.

“The great thing about SlowMo is that with the app, it’s always there to remind you about the things that you’ve talked through with the therapist, and can be easily used whenever someone feels worried about others.

“Having worked as a psychologist with people who experience psychosis for over 10 years, this is a really exciting therapy to be involved with. It’s been carefully designed with service users to ensure that it’s easy to use as well as being helpful, and builds on decades of research by leading clinicians and academics in this field.”

Angie, who has been trying out SlowMo to help with her paranoid thoughts, explains:

“I’ve had psychotic symptoms for many years. I’ve tried all sorts of different therapies, and medications. When I was introduced to SlowMo I found it was such a good idea, a simple idea all about slowing your thoughts down and thinking things through. It really helped and I can say it has really changed my life.

“I don’t panic on the bus so much anymore and if I do, I look at the phone they gave me with the app on it. This has helped me to go out so much more socially. I used to think people were looking at me and talking about me but since using SlowMo I’ve managed to go out more, which is a really good thing. I do like people but the way my voices work made me think these things and made it difficult to go out.

“I’m not a technical person and when I saw the laptop come out of Alison’s bag I thought, ‘oh no!’ But, it really is very, very simple and with her patience it made me even want to do the keyboard myself. Even with the app on the phone, I did it! It was such an easy layout, it wasn’t complicated at all.”

The trial is funded by the Medical Research Council and National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) partnership and aims to find out whether using the SlowMo app will help reduce paranoia.

360 people living with schizophrenia will be involved with the trial and followed up over 6 months. Prof Fowler and Dr Greenwood, from the University of Sussex have been working with Professor Garety and her team from King’s College London & South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and the other collaborators for several years developing this approach.  Professor Fowler explains that “Preliminary evaluations of this new digital therapy and feedback from service users and clinicians show considerable promise. The SlowMo trial will provide a definitive assessment of its effectiveness”.  If the trial shows benefit for patients Professor Garety hopes to make it freely available across the NHS.

For further information about the trial in Sussex contact the Sussex Trial coordinator Dr Alison McGourty Alison.mcgourty@sussexpartnership.nhs.uk