Psychology Chartered

Avatar Therapy Used To Reduce Schizophrenic Symptoms

Posted by Paul

11th December 2017

By Jessica Nagy-Miticzky

Avatar therapy is a new form of treatment for schizophrenic patients. It is designed to help patients stand up to schizophrenic voices and reduce the power of the hallucinations. The process involves confronting an avatar on a computer screen, which could be a helpful in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Part of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy looks at focusing and reattribution, to help decrease the distress of auditory hallucinations. During the first stage, the therapist focuses on the physical attributes of the voices. The Avatar therapy could help patients who struggle with this stage of the treatment. It allows patients to create a face to represent the voices they hear. By creating a face, they can confront the negative voices directly, instead of having to imagine the person.

Hallucinations, specifically negative auditory voices can be threatening and extremely hard to cope with. Patients who received this type of therapy became less distressed and heard the voices less often than those who only received counselling. Earlier research shows that 1/4 patients continue to experience voices after drug therapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, suggesting that new methods of treatment have been long overdue.

In the study run by King’s College London and University College London, 75 patients who continuously heard voices for over a year where given six sessions of avatar therapy, while another 75 received the same amount of counselling. During the avatar therapy, patients created a computer simulation to represent the voice they heard and wanted to control, including how it sounded and how it might look. After twelve weeks there was a dramatic improvement compared to counselling. Avatar therapy was found safe, easy to deliver and twice as effective as counselling. Experts agree that this therapy could add an exciting new approach to treating schizophrenia hallucinations. Hallucinations can be extremely traumatising and the result of this trial demonstrates real potential for this therapy to be used on a wider scale.

To read the article and watch the video, click here