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expert reaction to avatar therapy for auditory verbal hallucinations in people with psychosis

A new study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, examines whether avatar therapy may help to reduce auditory hallucinations for people with schizophrenia.


Prof. Stephen Lawrie, Head of Psychiatry, University of Edinburgh, said:

“This is an impressively large and robust RCT in a difficult to treat population. Those with treatment resistant auditory verbal hallucinations (AVH), most of whom had schizophrenia, showed a statistically significant reduction in AVHs and associated problems. The differences found are also likely to be clinically significant.

“Further study is required to replicate these results, establish the role of such treatment versus others such as CBT, and clarify who might benefit most.  It looks likely that AVATAR therapy could be added to our therapeutic armamentarium if there was adequate funding for mental health services.”


Prof Sir Robin Murray, Professor of Psychiatric Research, King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, said:

“This is a most interesting study of a new treatment for people who suffer from persistent and distressing auditory hallucinations. At present evidence-based therapies are limited to antipsychotic medication, and CBT; and sadly in about one quarter of people the combination of these is not effective.  If the findings of the study are generally replicated it will add an important new approach to care. But in addition, it will also make psychiatrists and neuroscientists reflect on the mechanisms underlying persistent voices.  At present, most models consider voices as the manifestation of some underlying abnormality of the functioning of the brain.  If a wholly psychological intervention such as Avatar Therapy can cause produce such an improvement, then it should make us rethink the way we conceptualize auditory hallucinations.”


* ‘AVATAR therapy for auditory verbal hallucinations in people with psychosis: a single-blind, randomised controlled trial’ by Craig et al. published in The Lancet Psychiatry on Thursday 23rd November.


Declared interests


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