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The SPS Study: Recruitment completed in largest ever clinical trial of psychological support for people with personality disorder

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19 February 2024

When people experience long-term mental distress and difficulties coping with relationships it can reduce their quality of life and lead to social exclusion. People with these problems often have high levels of contact with mental health services but the care they receive can be poor.

Evidence-based psychological treatments for people with personality disorder usually require people to attend groups for many months. Most people with personality disorder are unable to access these treatments, and many of those who can, drop out before treatment is completed. 

‘Structured Psychological Support’ is a shorter and less intensive approach that was developed by staff at Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust (CNWL) and Imperial College London. It is delivered in six to ten individual sessions and uses techniques based on longer term treatments like Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. A large-scale clinical trial of the intervention, funded by the National Institute of Health and Care Research (NIHR), is now under way.

Mike Crawford, Professor of Mental Health Research at Imperial College London and Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist at CNWL, is leading the trial and said:

“With excellent support from the Trust’s Research Delivery Group, we have successfully recruited over 300 patients to the study. More patients were recruited at CNWL than at any of the other six Trusts that took part in the study. The follow up phase of the project has begun and we are looking forward to seeing the results next year’

Fiona Khun-Thompson, Head of Lived Experience Workforce at CNWL and Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) lead on the study, said:

“Too often, people with complex emotional needs do not receive psychological support to help them achieve better mental health. Efforts need to be made to ensure that more people get effective support and this study will help us understand whether shorter more personalised psychological support can help increase access to effective care’.

For further details on the study, please visit the trial information page on the Imperial College London website:  Assessing psychological support for people with complex emotional needs: The SPS study




Image: Trinity Kubassek