A virtual coach can have life-improving impacts on patients that need psychological therapy, shown through trials of a virtual reality programme called gameChange.
The automated therapy, in the largest clinical trial of VR for mental health funded by the National Institute for Health Research, was shown to work for patients diagnosed with psychosis. The trial is detailed in The Lancet psychiatry.
“gameChange can have life-improving impacts on patients that need psychological therapy.“
Developed by a multi-partner team of industry, health and university experts, including OxfordVR, the gameChange trial is managed by researchers at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and Oxford University. The solution tackles a typical problem in people diagnosed with psychosis, namely intense fears of being outside in ordinary situations.
These fears develop into severe agoraphobia. For many patients, they avoid leaving home, severely disrupting their education, relationships with friends and family and careers. Designed to treat agoraphobia, gameChange helps patients re-engage with their everyday activities.
The trial found that gameChange led to significant reductions in the avoidance of day-to-day situations. Furthermore, it was found that the patients who benefitted most were those with psychiatric symptoms such as depression, anxiety, hallucinations and delusions and those who found it hard to leave the house. These benefits were maintained at the half a year follow up, and feedback from the patients showed that the treatment had a very high rate of up-take.
Lead researcher, Department of Psychiatry, Oxford University and NIHR senior investigator, Prof. Daniel Freeman, stated: “Virtual reality psychological therapy has come of age with gameChange. Over the past twenty-five years VR has been used in a small number of specialist mental healthcare clinics. It has supported in-person therapy delivered by a clinician. However, with gameChange, the therapy is built in, so it can be overseen by a range of staff and it can be delivered in a variety of settings, including patients’ homes. We are delighted that gameChange has produced excellent results for people with some of the most challenging mental health problems. Individuals who were largely housebound have got back outside. Using today’s affordable and easy-to-use consumer VR equipment, we think gameChange will lead a transformation in the digital provision of evidence-based psychological therapy, with deployment at scale for treatments that really work.”
A participant in the gameChange trial commented: “After 7 years of illness, I do feel so much better. I’ve been able to make eye contact with people more, without feeling really anxious, I’ve been able to walk down a street without worrying about anyone walking towards me. I’m now able to go into a café. I feel much more confident about going on a bus. I just feel so much more confident than I was.”See all the latest jobs in Service Engineering