Psychosis usually occurs in discrete episodes. A first episode of psychosis refers to the first time someone experiences an episode of psychosis. Sometimes a first episode of psychosis can come on quite suddenly, but much of the time the episode may be preceded by a period of weeks, months or even years where there are more subtle changes in the way a young person is experiencing the world. This may show up as a reduced ability to look after themselves, to socialise and to achieve as well in study or work. However, it is often difficult to recognise the early signs in the lead up to psychosis, and usually it is only after someone has begun to experience clear symptoms of psychosis that the earlier, subtle signs can be recognised.

When a first episode occurs, the young person may not understand what’s happening to them, and the symptoms can be highly distressing and unfamiliar, leaving them confused and distressed. These experiences often feel extremely real and it can be hard to differentiate these psychotic experiences from reality.

The quicker that a young person can get professional interventions the better for their recovery and can ensure that they are fully supported during this distressing time. Click here to find out more about our ‘Something’s not quite right’ prompt sheet, which can help a young person or their family to identify potential early signs of psychosis and use this to request help from the GP.

What does an Early Intervention in Psychosis (EIP) Service do?

  • EI teams are specialised in working with young people experiencing psychosis. They offer friendly, youth-focused services, which provide a range of different supports for young people and their families to help them in their recovery.
  • EI workers recognise how hard it can be for young people and family/whānau to engage with clinical services and are good at engaging with young people in positive and normalising ways.
  • EI services often run groups and activities to promote different types of health and wellbeing, and hope to connect young people with other people their age who may have been through similar things.
  • The EI philosophy is an optimistic one, with EI teams believing (and seeing) young people recover from psychosis and go on to lead rich and fulfilling lives.
  • EI practitioners aim to be sensitive to different cultural needs of the young people and families they work with, which can include working alongside Māori health workers and using Māori models of health.
  • The EI approach has a strong focus on social recovery, helping people back into meaningful activity such as study, work and hobbies and helping people work on their social networks and fulfil their social roles.
  • EI teams are run in a person-centred and collaborative way, making decisions with the individual and their family and providing options wherever possible.

EI teams are keen to be involved as early as possible, to help people and their families get support at the time they need it, to improve symptoms or reduce the risk of symptoms getting worse. This can help make sure that people can begin their process of recovery and journey towards wellbeing as quickly and smoothly as possible.

There are usually a number of different professions working within EI teams, which may include mental health nurses, social workers, clinical psychologists, occupational therapists, psychiatrists, and cultural workers. Some teams may also have access to additional supports within the team or with local organisations, such as community support workers, employment support, and health coaches. This means that EI teams can have a broad focus on a person’s psychological and physical health, working holistically to support recovery.

You can find out more about the EI team in your area here.