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Landmark clinical trial shows benefits of virtual reality treatment for severe psychological problems

Release: April 7, 2022

The largest NIHR-funded clinical trial of virtual reality (VR) therapy for mental health to date has shown that automated VR therapy is effective in patients diagnosed with psychosis. Those with the most difficult psychological problems experienced the greatest benefits.

trial, Published in The Lancet Psychiatryinvestigated the benefits of a gameChange VR program that patients could use in their home and other settings, using VR headsets with embedded therapeutic programs. 346 mentally ill patients joined his nine her NHS trusts.

The gameChange VR program was developed by a multi-partner team led by researchers from the University of Oxford and the Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and was funded by the NIHR’s Inventions for Innovation Program (i4i). It targets a common problem among people diagnosed with psychosis: the intense fear of being outside in everyday situations.

For many patients, these fears become so severe that they avoid leaving home and seriously disrupt their relationships with family and friends, their education, and their careers. Designed to help you return to the outside world from a homebound existence. A patient uses her VR headset to practice everyday situations such as cafes, shops, pubs, streets, doctor’s surgeries, and buses. Treatment is individualized and patients can choose what to do and when.

gameChange led to avoidance of everyday situations and a significant reduction in distress. The patients who benefited the most were those who found it most difficult to leave the house and those who had the most psychiatric symptoms such as severe anxiety, depression, delusions and hallucinations. has experienced great benefits, including being able to do activities that were previously unthinkable. These benefits were maintained at 6 months follow-up.

One trial participant commented: After seven years of being ill, I feel much better.I can make eye contact with people and feel less anxious. Even walking down the street, I didn’t have to worry about someone approaching me. Now you can go to the cafe. I feel more confident about riding the bus. I feel much more confident than before. ”

Professor Daniel Freeman, Principal Investigator of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford and Principal Investigator of the NIHR, said: For the past 25 years, VR has been used in a small number of specialized psychiatric clinics. Supports face-to-face therapy by clinicians. However, since gameChange incorporates treatment, it can be monitored by various staff members. It can also be delivered in different environments, such as the patient’s home. ”

“I am happy that gameChange has delivered excellent results for people with the most difficult mental health challenges. By using easy-to-use, consumer-grade VR equipment, gameChange believes it will revolutionize the digital delivery of evidence-based psychotherapy by deploying real-world treatments at scale.”

i4i Program Director Professor Mike Lewis said: Via virtual reality, he hopes to bring the benefits of psychotherapy to more people at home. ”

Read more about gameChange on the Oxford University Psychiatry website.