Qualitative Study on Identity in Individuals at Clinical High Risk for Psychosis: “... Why Does It Have to Be One Thing?”

Cansu Sarac, Joseph S. DeLuca, Zarina R. Bilgrami, Shaynna N. Herrera, Jonathan J. Myers, Matthew F. Dobbs, Shalaila S. Haas, Therese L. Todd, Agrima Srivastava, Rachel Jespersen, Riaz B. Shaik, Yulia Landa, Larry Davidson, Anthony J. Pavlo, Cheryl M. Corcoran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objective: Qualitative research can shed light on the subjective experiences of individuals at clinical high risk (CHR) for psychosis, complement quantitative research, broaden our understanding of experiencing CHR, and inform intervention development. The aim of this study was to explore life experiences of individuals at CHR through qualitative research. Method: Participants were 37 individuals at CHR (20 male, 17 female) aged 16–34 (Mage = 23.32 ± 5.26), and 16 healthy controls (HCs; 7 male, 9 female) aged 18–34 (Mage = 25.37 ± 4.05). Qualitative data were obtained through open-ended interviews (30–45 min). No a priori hypotheses were made, and thematic analyses were used to develop themes. Results: Four major themes and one subtheme related to identity were identified through the iterative thematic analysis: defining a self-concept (with a subtheme of creativity), identity development/formation, feeling different from others, and change from a former self. Over 80% of the CHR cohort spontaneously discussed topics related to their identity, compared to 38% of HCs. HCs only reported content within the defining a self-concept theme, while the CHR group reported content within all themes. Conclusions and Implications for Practice: The present study demonstrates that identity formation is a major process for youth in general and that psychosis experiences can make this process more challenging. CHR participants spontaneously brought up multiple themes related to identity in open-ended interviews, suggesting the relevance of this topic in this population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-53
Number of pages10
JournalPsychiatric Rehabilitation Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 17 Jun 2021


  • Clinical high risk for psychosis
  • Early psychosis
  • Identity
  • Qualitative
  • Self-concept


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