Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Effects of group metacognitive training (MCT) on mental capacity and functioning in patients with psychosis in a secure forensic psychiatric hospital: a prospective-cohort waiting list controlled study

Marie Naughton1, Andrea Nulty1, Zareena Abidin1, Mary Davoren12, Sarah O’Dwyer1 and Harry G Kennedy12*

Author Affiliations

1 National Forensic Mental Health Service, Central Mental Hospital, Dundrum, Dublin, 14, Ireland

2 Department of Psychiatry, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Research Notes 2012, 5:302  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-5-302

Published: 18 June 2012



Metacognitive Training (MCT) is a manualised cognitive intervention for psychosis aimed at transferring knowledge of cognitive biases and providing corrective experiences. The aim of MCT is to facilitate symptom reduction and protect against relapse. In a naturalistic audit of clinical effectiveness we examined what effect group MCT has on mental capacity, symptoms of psychosis and global function in patients with a psychotic illness, when compared with a waiting list comparison group.


Of 93 patients detained in a forensic mental health hospital under both forensic and civil mental health legislation, 19 were assessed as suitable for MCT and 11 commenced. These were compared with 8 waiting list patients also deemed suitable for group MCT who did not receive it in the study timeframe. The PANSS, GAF, MacArthur Competence Assessment Tool- Treatment (MacCAT-T) and MacArthur Competence Assessment Tool-Fitness to Plead (MacCAT-FP) were recorded at baseline and repeated after group MCT or following treatment as usual in the waiting list group.


When baseline functioning was accounted for, patients that attended MCT improved in capacity to consent to treatment as assessed by the MacCAT-T (p = 0.019). The more sessions attended, the greater the improvements in capacity to consent to treatment, mainly due to improvement in MacCAT-T understanding (p = 0.014) and reasoning . The GAF score improved in patients who attended the MCT group when compared to the waiting list group (p = 0.038) but there were no changes in PANSS scores.


Measures of functional mental capacity and global function can be used as outcome measures for MCT. MCT can be used successfully even in psychotic patients detained in a forensic setting. The restoration of elements of decision making capacity such as understanding and reasoning may be a hither-to unrecognised advantage of such treatment. Because pharmacotherapy can be optimised and there is likely to be enough time to complete the course, there are clear opportunities to benefit from such treatment programmes in forensic settings.