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Front Psychiatry. 2019 May 31;10:385. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00385. eCollection 2019.

A Mentalization-Informed Staging Approach to Clinical High Risk for Psychosis.

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Department of Psychiatry, Developmental Imaging and Psychopathology Lab, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland.
Viersprong Institute for Studies on Personality Disorders (VISPD), MBT Netherlands, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, University College London, London, United Kingdom.
Developmental Clinical Psychology Unit, Faculty of Psychology, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland.


The practice of diagnosis is fundamentally designed to orient treatment. In the case of early diagnosis for schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSP) risk, the empirical base for such a practice is still young, and many clinical questions arise in the everyday clinical application of risk algorithms and ensuing therapeutic options. One of the key questions that we will focus on is the following: in cases of SSP where symptoms are successfully treated, why does residual social functioning impairment remain the most serious obstacle to remission and reinsertion in society? We will present the evidence suggesting that the roots of residual social functioning impairment may, in many cases, come from thwarted or arrested development in the specialization of social cognition during adolescence and early adulthood. We will review the evidence suggesting that both during the premorbid phase and clinical high-risk phase, attenuated psychotic symptoms may impede the maturation of key social cognitive processes, particularly the suite of reflective thinking processes coming under the term of mentalization. From this evidence base, we will adapt the staging model of SSP progression in function of our mentalization-informed model, tailored to provide a coherent framework of care addressing the key clinical needs at every stage of psychosis progression.


early intervention; mentalizing; schizophrenia; social functioning; treatment

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