Virtual reality clinical-experimental tests of compassion treatment techniques to reduce paranoia.
Brown P., Waite F., Rovira A., Nickless A., Freeman D.
Paranoia may build on negative beliefs held both about the self and others. Compassionate imagery may be one way of reducing such negative beliefs, and hence paranoia. Two studies tested this idea, one targeting compassion for the self and one targeting compassion for others. Two-hundred individuals from the general population scoring highly for paranoia were recruited. The studies used a randomised controlled experimental design, with embedded tests for mediation. Study one targeted self-compassion via creation of a compassionate coach (CC) image. Study two targeted compassion for others via loving kindness meditation (LKM). Individuals repeatedly entered neutral virtual reality social environments. Changes in compassion and paranoia were assessed. Compared to controls, the CC group increased in self-compassion (group difference = 2.12, C.I. = 1.57;2.67, p = <0.0001, d = 1.4) and decreased in paranoia (group difference = -1.73, C.I. = -2.48; -0.98, p = <0.0001, d = 0.8). Change in self-compassion explained 57% of change in paranoia. Compared to controls, the LKM group increased their compassion for others (group difference = 3.26, C.I. = 2.72;3.80, p = <0.0001, d = 1.7), and decreased in paranoia (group difference = -1.70, C.I. = -2.50; -0.89, p = <0.0001, d = 0.8). Change in compassion for others explained 67% of change in paranoia. Targeting negative beliefs about the self and others using compassionate imagery causes reductions in paranoia. Tests in clinical populations are indicated.