How to treat clinical manifestations of schizotypy?


How to treat clinical manifestations of schizotypy? In an upcoming book, we try to anwser to this fascinating and elusive question. Paul H. Lysaker and I are the co-editors of a book to publish by Springer. The manuscript is finally in the hands of the production editor.

In the last year, Paul and I have involved twenty diverse teams of researchers and clinicians to address this question. Indeed, schizotypy represents a unique paradox. On one hand, we know that one out of ten persons presents schizotypal traits. On the other hand, there are no guidelines for treating schizotypal personality disorder or the clinical onset of schizotypal traits.

We don’t want to spoil the new book, but Paul and I have organized the contributions into three sections: (i) an introductory section discussing schizotypy as a feature of personality and psychopathology; (ii) a section dealing with 5 transdiagnostic processes relevant to schizotypy (attachment, mentalization, metacognition, self-criticism, interpersonal criticism); (iii) a concluding (and also the most extensive) section where numerous therapeutic approaches to schizotypy are presented.

To our knowledge this is the first book adressing clinical conceptualization and treatment of schizotypy, Despite several amazing books and papers have been puslished about, limited attention has been paid to the previous question, that is: How to treat clinical manifestations of schizotypy?

A randomized controlled trial about ESTS!

ESTS, Evolutionary Systems Therapy for Schizotypy, Simone Cheli, Randomized Controlled Trial, ESTS vs CBT

Our paper on the randomized controlled trial where we compared ESTS (Evolutionary Systems Therapy for Schizotypy) versus a combination of CBT and drugs is out! Finally, BMC Psychiatry has published it as an open access article.

The trial (ESTS versus CBT: Randomized Trial) reported very encouraging findings! Despite the pilot nature of the study, ESTS (withoud medication) showed at least a non-inferiority in respect to a good psychiatric managment comprising cognitive therapy for personality disorders and psychopharmacological treatment. ESTS reported drop-out rates below 10% and remission from diagnosis in 3 out of 4 patients.

I previously posted updates about the trial, the theoretical foundation of ESTS, and a new confermatory study we are starting in short, but this is very thrilling news! We can now consider ESTS a treatment that is elegible to test as therapy for schizotypy.

First, ESTS is rooted on a specific theoretical model. The clinical manifestations of schizotypy would be the failure in socializing one’s own openness to experience and introversion, leading to an impairment in metacognition and self-soothing.

Second, ESTS is based on a specific protocol comprising four modules: sharing, subjective systemts, intersubjective systems, and consolidation. The first is aimed to share the conceptualization and work on therapeutic alliance, the second and third to promote a mind-body awareness of subjective and interusbjective experience respectively, and the fourth to prevent relapses.

Finaly, a new RCT will compare ESTS with CBT without any mandatory treatment. People will be allowed to access to psychopharmacotherpy, but this will be considered as an exclusion criterion from the study (regardless of the arm they are randomized to)

Below you can find a video-summary of the study!

Cheli, S., Cavalletti, V., Lysaker, P. H., Dimaggio, D., Petrocchi, N., Chiarello, F., Enzo, C., Velicogna, F., Mancini, F., & Goldzweig, G. (2023). A pilot randomized controlled trial comparing a novel compassion and metacognition approach for schizotypal personality disorder with a combination of cognitive therapy and psychopharmacological treatment. BMC Psychiatry,

ESTS: A replication study

ESTS, schizotypy, evolutionary systems therapy

We are finally ready to start the replication study about Evolutionary Systems Therapy for Schizotypy (ESTS). ESTS is an integrative form of psychotherapy that is specifically tailored on schizotypal traits.

Last year we concluded the first randomized controlled trial (RCT) showing promising results about its effectiveness. Now we have registered the new RCT aimed to confirm these findings and question the limitations we highlighted. Indeed, we are going to increase the sample size of those sperimentally treated with ESTS, and will use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) e as an active treatment without any mandatory drug.

In the first RCT the control group accessed to a good psychiatric management comprising of CBT and psychopharnacological drugs. During the post-hoc analysis the interviews indicated how the control group may have been biased by a more stigmatizing approach along the treatment plan. On the one hand, we suppose how ESTS may benefit from an evolutionarily oriented and non-stigmatizing approach to conceptualization. On the other hand, the mandatory drug may have been perceived as stigmatizing or patronizing.

Thus, the new RCT will compare ESTS with CBT without any mandatory treatment. People will be allowed to access to psychopharmacotherpy, but this will be considered as an exclusion criterion from the study (regardless of the arm they are randomized to).

Another interesting difference between the new and the previous RCT will be the secondary outcomes. Despite we collected cases series about feasibility of ESTS in treating different features related to schizotypy, we want to explore the differential effectiveness on psychoticism and detachment. That is, we want to explore the differential effect of ESTS on diverse features of schizotypy, from oddity and disorganization to emotional and social withdrawal.

National Library of Medicine (U.S.). (2023, February- ). Evolutionary Systems Therapy for Schizotypy (ESTS). Identifier NCT05710926 . 

Psychotherapy for schizoid personality

schizoid personality disorder

The Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy published a paper where we present a psychotherapy for schizoid personality disorder. This personality is a highly understudied area: Despite early conceptualizations were prosed one century ago, clinicians do not have guidelines to rely upon. Indeed, an early formulazion of schizoid mechanisms can be traced back to Eugen Bleuler and then to the emergence of psychoanalisis (see Fairbairn and Klein).

In a two cases series we discussed how an integration of evolutionary psychopathology, metacognitively oriented psychotherapy, and compassion focused therapy may be useful in targeting severe forms of emotional and social detachment. The paper is an attempt to apply Evolutionary Systems Therapy for Schizotypy (ESTS) to this complex and understudied pattern of personality.

The prosed intervention was a 10-month individual psychotherapy that resulted in a remission from diagnosis and reliable changes in personality pathology and general symptomatology. The focus of psychotherapy was an evolutionary conceptualization of maladative traits and then a progressive focus on critical beliefs about self (e.g. I’m not adequate enough to properly live in the society) and others (e.g. my peers constantly judge me as weird and bizzare).

Cheli, S., Chiarello, F., & Cavalletti, V. (2022). A Psychotherapy Oriented by Compassion and Metacognition for Schizoid Personality Disorder: A Two Cases Series. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy.