information for referrers about group schema therapy
Throughout 2018, Dr Catherine McCarthy, Senior Clinical Psychologist and Johnny Kieran-Black, Senior Social Worker and CAT Practitioner, developed and delivered three rounds of group schema therapy (GST) with young people (16-30 year olds) in the day unit at Uspace at St Vincents Hospital, with supervision from Dr Joan Farrell and Ida Shaw, who developed group schema therapy in the USA.
In February 2019, the program moved into the community, with the 20 session protocol delivered over 10 weeks in two hour weekly sessions at Open Dialogue Psychotherapy at The Genki Centre, Glebe.
GST is a demanding and effective psychological treatment which applies a combination of cognitive, experiential/emotion-focused, and behaviour change interventions. GST has been found to be effective in improving stability of self, interpersonal relationships, social, family and occupational functioning and quality of life.
GST was developed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) patients and has a good evidence base with this difficulty, including evidence of reduction of BPD symptoms and associated behaviours. GST is also trans-diagnostic and adaptable to other personality disorders, complex trauma/PTSD and other chronic mental health difficulties which have not responded well to other treatment approaches. There is a growing evidence base to support the use of this model for these patient groups.
The GST programme delivered at Uspace was a successful psychological and social intervention. Low drop out rates were found across all three rounds, with an average retention rate of 90%. High satisfaction rates were reported, with all participants saying they would recommend the intervention to other young people.
Quantitative pre and post outcome measures included the CORE-10 and MHQ. Participants also provided qualitative feedback through the experience of care survey and testimonials. Some of the key outcomes are reported below:
Reduction in symptomology and associated distress
Increased social connection
Improved sense of safety and belonging amongst young people with chronic mental health difficulties. The connections established between group members and facilitators were reported as often being the first experience of feeling safe with others and part of a group
Increased engagement in education and employment
Shift in sense of self and increased self esteem
General inclusion and exclusion criteria for GST are outlined below:
Inclusion criteria: Patients with personality disorders or features, complex trauma or chronic problems who have not responded well to other treatment approaches and who are motivated to participate in GST and able to commit to the length of treatment.
Exclusion criteria: Patients experiencing acute psychotic episodes; ADHD with symptoms uncontrolled by psychopharmacology; patients with an IQ below 80 or those who cannot speak or read in English.
The success of the GST program has led to us extending it to an over 25-year-old group on Tuesday evenings.
The next young persons 16-25year old group starts on Tuesday 22nd October from 2:30-4:30pm.
The next adult 25+ year old group starts on Tuesday 22nd October from 5:30pm-7:30pm.
Fee for each session is $120, of which $35 will be rebated on Medicare (item number 80020).
If you are working with a young person or adult who you think could benefit from GST, please contact Johnny or Catherine on 0426 897049 or