A randomized controlled trial of Goal Management Training for executive functioning in schizophrenia spectrum disorders or psychosis risk syndromes

Executive functioning is essential to daily life and severely impaired in schizophrenia and psychosis risk syndromes. Goal Management Training (GMT) is a theoretically founded, empirically supported, metacognitive strategy training program designed to improve executive functioning.

A randomized controlled parallel group trial compared GMT with treatment as usual among 81 participants (GMT, n = 39 versus Wait List Controls, n = 42) recruited from an early intervention for psychosis setting. Computer generated random allocation was performed by someone independent from the study team and raters post-intervention were unaware of allocation. The primary objective was to assess the impact of GMT administered in small groups for 5 weeks on executive functioning. The secondary objective was to explore the potential of the intervention in influencing daily life functioning and clinical symptoms.

GMT improved self-reported executive functioning, measured with the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function – Adult version (BRIEF-A), significantly more than treatment as usual. A linear mixed model for repeated measures, including all partial data according to the principle of intention to treat, showed a significant group x time interaction effect assessed immediately after intervention (post-test) and 6 months after intervention (follow-up), F = 8.40, p .005, r .37. Improvement occurred in both groups in objective executive functioning as measured by neuropsychological tests, functional capacity, daily life functioning and symptoms of psychosis rated by clinicians. Self-reported clinical symptoms measured with the Symptoms Check List (SCL-10) improved significantly more after GMT than after treatment as usual, F = 5.78, p .019, r .29. Two participants withdrew due to strenuous testing and one due to adverse effects.

GMT had clinically reliable and lasting effects on subjective executive function. The intervention is a valuable addition to available treatment with considerable gains at low cost.

Trial registration
Registered at clinicaltrials.gov NCT03048695 09/02/2017.

Ingvild Haugen, Jan Stubberud, Elisabeth Haug, Susan R. McGurk, Kjell Tore Hovik, Torill Ueland & Merete Glenne Øie | 2022
In: BMC Psychiatry ; ISSN: 1471-244X | 22 | 575
Effectiveness, Executive functioning, Prevention, Psychiatric Disorders, Psychosis, Randomized Clinical Trial, Schizophrenia, Training programs