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NIHR Virtual reality could help people with psychosis and agoraphobia

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NIHR Virtual reality could help people with psychosis and agoraphobia

A new therapy which uses virtual reality helped many people with psychosis manage excessive anxiety which prevents them leaving home (agoraphobia).

Tuesday 1st August 2023

“Research found that the virtual reality therapy required less therapist time than usual care, and could be delivered by staff with no experience of delivering talking therapies.

People with psychosis have lost some contact with reality. They may see or hear things that other people do not (hallucinations), or believe things that are not true (delusions). Almost 2 in 3 people with psychosis also struggle with agoraphobia. They can be helped by talking therapies but there is a shortage of trained therapists. This study assessed whether virtual reality could be used to deliver effective therapy.

The researchers worked with people with lived experience of psychosis to develop the virtual reality therapy. Those receiving the treatment wore a virtual reality headset, and explored an electronic version of an everyday situation they found distressing (getting on a bus or visiting the doctor, for instance).

All participants in this study received usual care (prescribed medications, regular visits from a community mental health worker and occasional outpatient appointments with a psychiatrist). Half received virtual reality therapy in addition. The study found that the virtual reality therapy generally had a positive impact. People in the group who received it were less likely to avoid situations they found uncomfortable, and were less distressed. Those with severe agoraphobia described lasting benefits.”

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