Making talking therapy more accessible to patients with psychosis who experience learning challenges

8 March 2023

Research is being conducted in Sussex to see if more mental health practitioners can be trained to deliver therapy for patients who are distressed by psychotic experiences.

The therapy is based on the principles of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and involves the use of some self-help materials - including a book called Overcoming Distressing Voices. These materials can make the therapy difficult to access for patients who experience challenges with learning and reading.

In order to be inclusive of patients who have a range of learning abilities, an audio recording of the book has been created. Professor Mark Hayward is one of the authors of the book and has been recorded reading each of the book's chapters. These recordings will be offered to patients as part of a trial to seek feedback on their experience of hearing the book being read to them.

Professor Hayward, Director of Research at Sussex Partnership, said:

"Psychotic experiences such as hearing voices can be very distressing and prevent many patients from leading a full and satisfying life. Researchers have worked hard over the past 20 years to develop talking therapies that can be helpful for some of these patients. However, the talking therapy is rarely made available to patients due to limited resources."

Overcoming Distressing Voices, is read alongside the therapy, and is a self-help guide to using cognitive behavioural techniques and explores responding differently to distressing voices and also changing beliefs and relationship with those voices.

Dr Hayward added:

"Our research studies are exploring the benefits of offering the talking therapy in a way that uses less resources - as the patient can be guided through some self-help materials by a mental health practitioner. However, these materials are in written form and some of the patients can struggle with literacy and concentration. Due to our commitment to be as inclusive as possible, we are recording some of the materials as audio books that can be listened to by patients, even if they struggle with reading."

The purpose of this study is to find out if a shorter version of CBT, delivered by briefly trained practitioners , can be helpful for people who hear distressing voices. This form of CBT will be compared to a control group who will receive no additional interventions.

To find out more about the work of the Voices Clinic see:

For information about the GiVE3 therapy trial and other research studies at Sussex Partnership see: