Birchwood, Max and Michail, Maria and Meaden, Alan and Tarrier, Nicholas and Lewis, Shôn and Wykes, Til and Davies, Linda and Dunn, Graham and Peters, Emmanuelle
Cognitive behaviour therapy to prevent harmful compliance
with command hallucinations (COMMAND): a randomised
The Lancet Psychiatry, 1
Background Acting on command hallucinations in psychosis can have serious consequences for the individual and for other people and is a major cause of clinical and public concern. No evidence-based treatments are available to reduce this risk behaviour. We therefore tested our new cognitive therapy to challenge the perceived power of voices to inflict harm on the voice hearer if commands are not followed, thereby reducing the hearer’s motivation to comply.
Methods In COMMAND, a single-blind, randomised controlled trial, eligible participants from three centres in the UK who had command hallucinations for at least 6 months leading to major episodes of harm to themselves or other people were assigned in a 1: 1 ratio to cognitive therapy for command hallucinations + treatment as usual versus just treatment as usual for 9 months. Only the raters were masked to treatment assignment. The primary outcome was harmful compliance. Analysis was by intention to treat. The trial is registered, number ISRCTN62304114.
Findings 98 (50%) of 197 participants were assigned to cognitive therapy for command hallucinations + treatment as usual and 99 (50%) to treatment as usual. At 18 months, 39 (46%) of 85 participants in the treatment as usual group fully complied with the voices compared with 22 (28%) of 79 in the cognitive therapy for command hallucinations + treatment as usual group (odds ratio 0·45, 95% CI 0·23–0·88, p=0·021). At 9 months the treatment effect was not significant (0·74, 0·40–1·39, p=0·353). However, the treatment by follow-up interaction was not significant and the treatment effect common to both follow-up points was 0·57 (0·33–0·98, p=0·042).
Interpretation This is the first trial to show a clinically meaningful reduction in risk behaviour associated with commanding voices. We will next determine if change in power was the mediator of change. Further more complex trials are needed to identify the most influential components of the treatment in reducing power and compliance.
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