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A new study found that “avatar therapy” was more effective than supportive counseling in bringing down auditory hallucinations in patients with schizophrenia. ( Pixabay )
The Avatar Therapy
In the new study published in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry, researchers examined 150 patients in Britain who suffered from schizophrenia for about 20 years. These patients experienced continuous auditory hallucinations or voices in their heads for over a year.
Half of these patients received avatar therapy, while the other half received supportive counseling. Throughout the trial, all the patients continued to take their regular antipsychotic medication
The patients who underwent avatar therapy received 50-minute sessions only once every week for more than a month and a half.
How Avatar Therapy Works?
These patients worked alongside their therapist to create avatars of the voices they most wanted to confront or deal with.
This also included what the voices were saying, how they sounded like, and how they might look like in graphical representations. The voices were usually insults and threats that caused the patients to become distressed and anxious.
During the trial, the patients had to face their avatars in a way that allowed them to stand up to their avatars and regain more control over the conversations they were having.
Results: Avatar Therapy Offers Promising New Approach
Researchers from the King’s College London in the UK found that the experimental therapy was more effective than supportive counseling in lessening auditory hallucinations in patients.
Researchers found that after nearly three months, the symptoms of the patients who underwent avatar therapy were less severe than those who underwent supportive counseling. Also, the patients who received avatar therapy appeared to be less distressed about their hallucinations compared to the patients who had counseling.
However, at 24 weeks, researchers said they found no differences between both groups. Hallucinations in both groups gradually became less distressing and less powerful at 24 weeks.
Researchers say more study is still required and that they need to study how effective the therapy would be in other health care settings.
“Avatar therapy is a promising new approach and these early results are very encouraging. If the researchers can show that this therapy can be delivered effectively by different therapists in different locations, this approach could radically change how millions of psychosis sufferers are treated across the world,” said Ann Mills-Duggan, an expert from the Wellcome’s Innovations team.
Schizophrenia is a chronic brain disorder that affects around one in 100 people around the world. A person who suffers from schizophrenia displays a number of symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, and trouble thinking and concentrating.
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