Avatar therapy for schizophrenia

Avatar: ‘You’re rubbish, you’re rubbish, you’re a waste of space’ Lauren: ‘ Can you go away please?’ ‘That’s good Lauren, that’s good but can
you try and make it a bit stronger for me?’ ‘Sit up, look at him’ ‘Tell him to go away, ok?’ Avatar therapy is for people who hear distressing auditory hallucinations or voices so these are mainly people who have diagnosis of schizophrenia and related conditions A computer system is used to create a face representing the entity that the person usually believes is behind their voices,
and a copy of the voice they hear and the software is remarkable in that it
can produce a complete range of voices, voice transforms, so that we get a very
high match of what the person experiences to what they see on the computer Avatar: ‘Whenever his friends asked him if you would like to go out with them, you would only answer I don’t know’ ‘You wouldn’t say yes and you wouldn’t say no, either’ So the therapy is delivered over six sessions, each of about 10 minutes long where the person is having a dialogue with their avatar and gradually the avatar changes in response to the person standing up to it So if the person says I’m tired of hearing this, leave me alone the avatar gradually concedes, the whole experience changes from something that’s very frightening to something that’s much more in the person’s control ‘Tell him you don’t want to hear this rubbish anymore when he comes in with his usual statements’ Avatar: ‘How come you’re so confident?’ Lauren: ‘Because I’m not going to listen to you anymore’ So the first pilot study of Avatar therapy was just a very small number of patients and it was remarkably successful We needed to do a larger, randomised control trial where we compared avatar therapy to an alternative psychological intervention There are 150 people in the trial, 75 got avatar therapy and 75 got the alternative therapy In the Avatar therapy we had about nine people who completely stopped hearing their voices and by three months really large and significant decreases in the amount of distress people felt in relation to their voices, the number of times a day they heard the voices and the extent to which they felt overpowered by the voice, they found the voice was omnipotent or malevolent and threatening so that all decreased as well So globally, a very impressive result at
three months So the real advance that comes from Avatar therapy is the improvement in treatment Antipsychotic medication is helpful to a point but many people who have been on antipsychotic medication for years and years still have their voices Similarly, psychological therapies added on to antipsychotics medication also leave many people still with chronic persisting voices that are horrible and distressing Our study that’s published in The Lancet
tackled that group, people who had been stuck with their voices for at least a year despite having the best treatment that could be thrown at them currently
and yet we still get an improvement, we’re still getting a significant benefit from Avatar therapy on top of standard treatments, so I think it’s a real advance and I think that there will come a time when this will be part of our routine provision of psychological treatments for voice hearers in psychosis

12 comments

  1. I like that this new tool seems to help, but I much prefer methods that also help people understand why they have been suffering. Because the way I see it, for most people that's the only way to get lasting relief. Once you understand what has been causing you to suffer, it's much less difficult to figure out that it's the same causes at play again, when you find yourself suffering in a situation you haven't experienced before. See my channel for examples of methods that bring relief and also insight that affords lasting relief.

  2. блин) думал меня вылечат)) но с такого страшного аватара наоборот обострение начнётся=))

  3. I really think this avatar therapy would be helpful for refractory schizophrenia. Wish it was available remotely or locally.

  4. it seems that the avatar only speaks in the voice of male… will there be any difference if the avatar is female? or each patient has their own specific avatar treatment? and, the movement of eyes of the avatar is scary, from my point of view..

  5. No wonder why people believe in religion so dearly…
    If you find yourself hearing voices, you'd either believe you went mad (requires a great amount of courage) or you would think that God or angels are talking to you (given that you have been raised to believe that God exists, that's what most of the people will do)

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