Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Who is PREP for?
PREP is designed to serve people who are within two years of their first psychotic break or first episode psychosis. PREP services help the individual struggling with these issues, and his or her “family.”


Q: How does PREP define “family?”
In PREP family is defined as supportive individuals who may or may not be actual relatives, but who can to commit to supporting the client.


Q: What is psychosis?
Psychosis describes the experience of some loss of contact with reality.  While perspectives on what reality is can vary between individuals, people experiencing psychosis may encounter sounds or see things that others do not. Psychotic episodes are periods of time when symptoms of psychosis are strong and interfere with regular life. The lengths of these episodes vary from person to person and may last between a few hours or days, or for weeks, months or even years. Psychosis can be substance induced or due to a general medical condition, and can be experienced briefly or chronically. PREP serves people in early psychosis due to a mental health condition. The terms "early psychosis" or "first episode psychosis" mean that an individual is experiencing psychosis for the first time. Individuals experiencing psychosis may have very different symptoms.  Please see our "What is Psychosis?" section for more information.


Q: What is a chronic psychotic disorder?
The common types of chronic psychosis are schizophrenia, schizophreniform, and schizoaffective disorder.  These terms are often misused in the popular press and even sometimes by doctors.  They do not refer to a split personality or to someone who is always confused or disoriented.  These disorders instead refer to a prolonged period of frequent psychosis in the context of a prolonged period of functional impairment which typically involves problems with attention, concentration, memory and communication ability.  Schizoaffective disorder additionally involves depressed or manic episodes.


Q: How do I know if it’s a chronic psychotic disorder?
Everyone’s experience of psychosis is different and attaching a specific name or label to the experience is not always easy or even useful in the early stages. A diagnosis will depend on what brought on the illness and how long the symptoms last. It can be particularly difficult to diagnose early psychosis, which is why PREP uses the most current research-based tools for a thorough and comprehensive diagnosis and assessment.


Q: When does chronic psychosis tend to start?
Early signs of these disorders most often begin in adolescence or young adulthood (ages 12-35).


Q: Why try to catch psychiosis early?
It has been shown in many scientific studies that early intervention with appropriate treatment can prevent or reverse the impairments associated with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder (reviewed by Marshall in Archives of General Psychiatry, 2005, pages 975-983).  Our goal is to provide accurate assessment, evidence-based treatment and appropriate referral as early as possible.


Q: How long do PREP services last?
PREP services are designed to last two years, after which time clients may have an opportunity to continue with some services and supports.


Q: What if the person has been suffering from psychosis for several years already?
PREP is designed for early psychosis, so if the person has been experiencing symptoms for several years, he or she is unlikely to qualify for PREP services, but may be able to benefit from other services offered through FSA-SF and UCSF’s Langley Porter. See below for individuals who do not qualify for PREP.


Q: What if I don’t qualify for PREP, but I would still like services?
If you do not qualify for the PREP program, there are a number of other programs that can help you, based on your specific needs. The PREP advice line will conduct a free, confidential telephone screening to see if you qualify for PREP, and offer you specific referrals or a list of resources if it is determined that PREP is not a fit for your needs. You can also obtain referrals from the Mental Health Association of Alameda County (MHAAC). Also, the Family Service Agency of San Francisco (FSA-SF) offers a host of high-quality behavioral health, social service and family support programs at low or no cost.