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A new clinical trial is testing a virtual reality (VR) based psychological therapy for people with severe mental health difficulties. gameChange is the largest ever clinical trial of virtual reality for a mental health disorder. Automated delivery of therapy using VR has potential to transform NHS provision of psychological therapy.

There are currently 220,000 patients diagnosed with schizophrenia in contact with mental healthcare services in the NHS in England and Wales. Two-thirds of these patients have levels of anxious avoidance equivalent to people with agoraphobia.

Daniel Freeman, gameChange lead researcher, Professor of Clinical Psychology, University of Oxford and Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, said,

"The gameChange VR therapy is for people with conditions such as schizophrenia whose fears have caused them to withdraw to such an extent that everyday tasks – such as getting on a bus, doing the shopping, speaking to other people – are a challenge. It aims to help patients re-engage with the world and go into everyday situations feeling more confident, calm and in control."

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Over 400 NHS patients across England (Bristol, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Oxford) will take part in the gameChange clinical trial, which will last 18 months and is funded by the National Institute for Health Research. The purpose of the trial is to find out whether VR therapy works. To do this, half the participants will receive the VR therapy and half will not. A comparison will then be made to see how the people who received VR therapy got on compared to those who did not receive the therapy.

Experience from the games industry suggests that VR therapies can also be more enjoyable than traditional treatments – ensuring good take-up and ongoing use of the therapy. The gameChange trial aims to determine whether the promise of success of VR for mental health is true. - Professor Daniel Freeman

This trial is being funded by the NIHR i4i mental health challenge award and it is also supported by the NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre.

View a video explaining the gameChange project

For more information visit project website: www.gameChangeVR.com

 

 

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