The benefits of incorporating approaches from positive psychology into existing understandings of mental health problems have recently been promoted by several policy development in UK.
However, the research in this area is still very limited. The aim of the study was to develop the evidence for a brief intervention that targets goal-setting and planning skills (GAP) to improve well-being.
A total of 82 service users were recruited through a large mental health trust in the Greater London area.
A cross-over design was used, with participants initially randomly allocated to either the intervention or a waiting-list control group.
Participants allocated to the waiting-list condition were offered the intervention after they had completed their measures as controls and follow-up measures were taken from all participants 1 month after completing the intervention.
The initial intervention group consisted of 11 males and 11 females with a primary diagnosis of schizophrenia, 8 bipolar disorder, 4 mood disorder and 1 other. The control group consisted of 15 males and 19 females with a primary diagnosis of schizophrenia, 7 bipolar disorder, 9 mood disorder and 3 other.
The groups did not differ significantly on any demographic or clinical variables.
Outcome measures were: positive affect (PA), negative affect (NA), satisfaction with life (SWLS), Beck Hopelessness Scale (BHS) and a measure of outcome expectancy and efficacy for goals (OutEff).
At post treatment, the GAP group were significantly higher on SWLS and OutEff than controls and significantly lower on NA.
PA showed a trend to be higher and BHS showed no effect.
At follow up with all participants receiving GAP, SWLS, OutEff, PA and BHS all showed improved scores, but NA no longer showed any benefit.
According to the authors, the findings support the value to users of mental health services of interventions that are not symptom focused, but rather focused on enhancing positive aspects of people's experience.