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Virtual Reality Therapy Can Successfully Treat Patients With Psychosis

Virtual Reality Therapy Can Successfully Treat Patients With Psychosis

Virtual reality isn’t just for video games or Mark Zuckerberg’s faltering dreams. It can also be used to treat mental health.

In a new study published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry On Tuesday, researchers conducted the largest-ever clinical trial of virtual reality therapy to treat patients with psychosis and schizophrenia. The experiment was part of gameChange, a program developed by Oxford University and the Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust that uses virtual reality to treat agoraphobia, an intense fear of being outside that is also a common symptom of psychosis.

Over the course of six weeks, patients wore a VR headset and participated in six 30-minute therapy sessions, in addition to conventional treatment (taking prescribed antipsychotic medication, receiving regular visits from a mental health worker, and visiting a psychiatrist). They began each session in a virtual therapist’s office before moving on to outside scenarios such as waiting at a bus stop, visiting a coffee shop, or going to the doctors, to help them cope and build confidence as they enter new real-life environments.

While the simulations are somewhat realistic, the researchers said the nature of virtual reality helped patients feel more comfortable and more at risk through certain interactions.

“There is little awareness [of the brain] Daniel Freeman, lead author of the study and professor of clinical psychology at Oxford University, said: Watchman.

“Essentially, if you get past something in virtual reality, you’re going beyond the real world,” he added.

Freeman and his team found that the trial was an overall success for the program, resulting in a significant reduction in patients’ avoidance of everyday outdoor situations compared to a parallel group of patients who received conventional care therapy after just six weeks. They also discovered that patients who experienced more severe agoraphobia experienced greater improvement after treatment.

“After seven years of illness, I feel much better,” one patient said in a statement. “I’ve been able to make more eye contact with people, without really getting anxious, I’ve been able to walk down the street without worrying about anyone walking towards me. I’m now able to go to the coffee shop. I feel more confident about getting on the bus. I just feel more confident than I am. I was on it.”

Another patient said guardian that before VR therapy, he struggled to use the bus to visit his father’s grave. However, the gameChange simulations helped him gain the confidence he needed to make the trip.

“He helped me in every aspect,” he said. “I was able to get the bus to my father’s grave, I was able to put flowers on the ground, spend some time there and get the bus back.”

The study authors suggest that one day VR headsets could be distributed and given to patients to help them gain confidence right away before heading outside whenever they want. They also hope that more scenarios can be developed in the future to help patients deal with more complex social interactions.

Overall, the new findings are the strongest look at how virtual reality can be used to treat mental health to date. If these findings are any indication, treatment could really change the rules of the game for those suffering from debilitating psychological problems.

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