Severe mental illnesses, including schizophrenia and other psychotic-spectrum disorders, are a major cause of disability worldwide. Although efficacious pharmacological and psychosocial interventions have been developed for treating patients with schizophrenia, relapse rates are high and long-term recovery remains elusive for many individuals. Furthermore, little is still known about the underlying mechanisms of these illnesses. Thus, there is an urgent need to better understand the contextual factors that contribute to psychosis so that they can be better targeted in future interventions. Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) is a dynamic procedure that permits the measurement of variables in natural settings in real-time through the use of brief assessments delivered via mobile electronic devices (i.e.
, smartphones). One advantage of EMA is that it is less subject to retrospective memory biases and highly sensitive to fluctuating environmental factors. In the current article, we describe the research-to-date using EMA to better understand fluctuating symptoms and functioning in patients with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders and potential applications to treatment. In addition, we describe a novel EMA protocol that we have been employing to study the outcomes of patients with schizophrenia following a hospital discharge. We also report the lessons we have learned thus far using EMA methods in this challenging clinical population.
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