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Clinic helps foster recovery from initial psychotic breaks

Apr. 18, 2013, 10:29 AM

Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital’s Psychotic Disorders Clinic has become a leader in the region for the initial assessment and treatment of young adults suffering from their first psychotic break.

These episodes are characterized by notable changes in behavior or thinking — erratic or impulsive actions, delusional thinking, or hallucinations, according to Jeffrey Stovall, M.D., associate professor of Psychiatry and part of the clinic’s treatment team.

The treatment team at the Psychotic Disorders Clinic includes (front row from left) Terako Amison, M.D., Emma Finan, LMFT, Jeffrey Stovall, M.D., (back row from left) Carla Gatewood, R.N., and Lindsey Miller, Pharm.D. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Stovall said that many of the patients they treat are referred from other hospitals, though some are brought in by family members or are self-referred.

The majority of patients the clinic sees suffer from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, and most of them are between the ages of 18 and 21— the most common age of “onset” for these types of disorders.

The primary purpose of the clinic is to help patients and their families address the new illness in their lives, Stovall said.

“We want to help the patient and their family by offering early interventions and reducing the burden of the disease on the family,” Stovall said.

“Many people who are struggling with a psychotic disorder distance themselves from their loved ones, and many families don’t know how to respond to the challenges of the disease.”

“Good treatment includes the right balance of anti-psychotic medications as well as helping the patient realize that there is support for them.”

Stovall describes a patient’s relationship with the clinic as fostering ongoing recovery.

“Recovery for a person dealing with a psychotic disorder doesn’t mean a cure or the end of symptoms. Instead, we are hoping that they have relatively less severe and less frequent symptoms and that we can help them learn to deal with a lifelong illness while still engaging in the world and moving forward,” he said.

“We want to help them realize that their lives are not over and that they can still achieve much of what they want for themselves. We don’t stigmatize them and they shouldn’t stigmatize themselves.”

Stephan Heckers, M.D., M.Sc., chair of the Department of Psychiatry, said that Vanderbilt’s expertise with these patients is enhancing care and furthering research.

“This clinic allows us to have access to the patients and follow them over time, improving outcomes both research-wise and clinically.”

The Psychotic Disorders Clinic is located within Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital. Stovall’s colleagues in the clinic are Terako Amison, M.D., Emma Finan, LMFT, Carla Gatewood, R.N., and Lindsey Miller, Pharm.D.

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