Avatars: Promising New Treatment to Reduce Symptoms of Schizophrenia


An experimental therapy which involves a face-to-face discussion between a person with schizophrenia and an avatar representing their auditory hallucination may help reduce symptoms, when provided alongside usual treatment, according to a study led by King's College London and published in The Lancet Psychiatry Journal. The randomised controlled trial compared the avatar therapy to a form of supportive counselling (adapted specifically for the study). It found that avatar therapy was more effective at reducing hallucinations at 12-week follow-up, and had a large effect size. Further research to investigate the treatment’s effectiveness in other healthcare settings will be needed, and so the treatment is not yet widely available.

The study is the first large-scale randomized controlled trial of this type of therapy, and was used in people with schizophrenia who had had persistent and distressing auditory hallucinations for more than a year, despite treatment. All participants continued to receive their usual treatment throughout the trial.

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