A UK trial has found that confronting an avatar on a computer screen helped people who hear voices to cope better with these auditory hallucinations.
Patients who received this therapy became less distressed and heard voices less often compared with those who had cognitive behavioural therapy instead.
The trial, on 150 people, is published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal and follows a much smaller pilot study in 2013.
Auditory hallucinations can be threatening and insulting, yet one in four patients continues to experience voices despite being treated with drugs and cognitive behavioural therapy.
In this study, run by King’s College London and University College London, 75 patients who had continued to hear voices for more than a year, were given six sessions of avatar therapy while another 75 received the same amount of cognitive behavioural therapy.
In the avatar sessions, patients created a computer simulation to represent the voice they heard and wanted to control, including how it sounded and how it might look.
Read more (and watch a short video) here.
An earlier (May 2013) BBC report about Avatar Therapy can be seen here, along with a short video.
AVATAR therapy (invented by Julian Leff in 2008) is a new approach in which people who hear voices have a dialogue with a digital representation (avatar) of their presumed persecutor, voiced by the therapist so that the avatar responds by becoming less hostile and concedes power over the course of therapy.