Congratulations to Queen’s Psychology MSc student Olivia Simioni, on being selected as a recipient of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada Foundation (SSCF) and the Canadian Consortium for Early Intervention in Psychosis (CCEIP) studentship for research in schizophrenia and psychosis at the Master’s level.

Olivia was selected for her project proposal ‘Understanding the effectiveness of an online group therapy for self-stigma in first episode psychosis’ and its potential to contribute to understanding schizophrenia and related psychosis, and to the well-being of patients with schizophrenia/psychosis.

Research on psychosis has largely been dominated by a focus on symptom management, and Olivia feels that interventions that go beyond that and look to enhance quality of life are of great importance. Her study aims to shed light on how individuals with psychosis access, engage with, and benefit from online treatments, ultimately contributing to the improvement of online services.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated a transition to online treatment, individuals with psychosis faced a scarcity of resources,” Olivia explains. “There is ample support for the effectiveness of online treatments for many mental health disorders, but the evidence is lacking for psychosis. The project is looking at whether a self-stigma intervention designed by our research group is effective when delivered online. We’re always looking to improve existing interventions, so this award will help us to further refine the treatment. We are also excited to develop a complementary treatment group for individuals who have loved ones with first episode psychosis.”

Olivia’s supervisor in the Cognition in Psychological Disorders (CPD) Lab, Dr. Christopher Bowie says Olivia has embraced core CPD lab values of trying to determine how to ensure that their treatments are fully accessible for all of those experiencing psychotic symptoms. “Our geographic catchment area for our early psychosis intervention work, larger than many countries, means that access to both evidence-based treatments and novel research studies has been limited, Dr. Bowie says. “With the shift to remotely delivered interventions through telethealth and video conferencing, we are in a position to ask the question of whether these approaches provide a similar effect and to identify barriers and issues that might make specific components of therapy more challenging and thus in need of adaptation for remote delivery. Olivia’s project will be critical in helping identify issues associated with remote treatment for young people with psychosis. She is consulting with people with lived experience at all stages of the research to ensure the research is informed by those we hope the treatment ultimately serves.”

“I’m very excited to be the recipient of the SSCF-CCEIP Studentship Award,” Olivia concludes. “And I’m grateful for the graduate students in the CPD lab that came before me and developed this treatment.”

The SSCF-CCEIP studentship includes a financial award of $15,000/year, paid annually to full-time graduate students at the Master’s level working under the supervision of a research investigator affiliated with a Canadian university.

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