A pilot digital intervention targeting loneliness in young people with psychosis

Michelle H. Lim, John F.M. Gleeson, Thomas L. Rodebaugh, Robert Eres, Katrina M. Long, Kit Casey, Jo Anne M. Abbott, Neil Thomas, David L. Penn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Loneliness has been identified as a significant challenge for people with psychosis. Interventions targeting loneliness are lacking but adopting a positive psychology approach may reduce loneliness, promote well-being, and support meaningful social interactions. Together with youth mental health consumers, we developed a digital smartphone application (app) called +Connect, which delivers positive psychology content daily for 6 weeks. Materials and methods: Twelve participants diagnosed with a psychotic disorder were recruited from early psychosis services. Loneliness was assessed pre-intervention, post-intervention, and 3-month post-intervention. Acceptability, feasibility, and usability were measured post-intervention, including a semi-structured interview on the user’s experience of +Connect. Results: We found evidence for the feasibility of +Connect. All but two participants completed the +Connect program, completing 95% (40.10 out of 42 days) of the program. Furthermore, 66.67% (8 out of the 12 participants) remained engaged with the program 3-months post-intervention. Our data indicates preliminary evidence that +Connect may reduce loneliness, with scores from pre-intervention (M = 50.00, SD = 8.47) to post-intervention (M = 48.10, SD = 10.38) and 3-months post-intervention (M = 42.89, SD = 7.04). We found that positive reinforcement of in-game rewards and evidence of positive mood changes added to the feasibility of the app. Regarding acceptability, while 10% (1/10 participants) reported not finding +Connect useful or enjoyable, 90% of participants agreed that +Connect helped them to increase their social confidence, enjoy life, look forward to being with other people, and feel more connected with others. Participant interviews supported these results, with participants highlighting the app’s strengths in providing useful information, stimulating self-reflection, fostering positive affect, and encouraging transfer of skills into their social interactions. Discussion: While preliminary findings indicated that +Connect yielded high levels of acceptability and feasibility, it is important to consider that we recruited a small and selected sample of lonely young people. Further iterations of this proof of concept app, which can incorporate participant feedback such preferences for increased personalisation, in-app feedback, and gamification, may allow an opportunity to test an improved version in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)877-889
Number of pages13
JournalSocial Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Digital intervention
  • Psychosis
  • Loneliness
  • Positive psychology intervention

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