An experimental therapy which involves a face-to-face discussion between a person with schizophrenia and an avatar may help reduce symptoms…
First large-scale trial
The study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal on 23 November 2017, is the first large-scale randomised 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.
Further research to investigate the treatment’s effectiveness in other healthcare settings will be needed, and so the treatment is not yet widely available.
“A large proportion of people with schizophrenia continue to experience distressing voices despite lengthy treatment, so it is important that we look at newer, effective and shorter forms of therapy,” says lead author Professor Tom Craig from King’s College London, and the South London and Maudsley NHS [National Health Service] Foundation Trust, UK.
Improves auditory hallucinations
He adds: “Our study provides early evidence that avatar therapy rapidly improves auditory hallucinations for people with schizophrenia, reducing their frequency and how distressing they are, compared to a type of counselling.
More research and investigation needed
“So far, these improvements appear to last for up to six months for these patients. However, these results come from one treatment centre and more research is needed to optimise the way the treatment is delivered and demonstrate that it is effective in other NHS settings.”
The researchers aim to conduct a cost-effectiveness analysis, and investigate further the mechanisms of how the treatment reduces symptoms.
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