A randomised clinical trial of a novel Audio-Visual Assisted Therapy Aid for Refractory auditory hallucinations (AVATAR therapy)

Presentation First Author: 
Thomas Ward

Background: AVATAR therapy is a novel approach to working with distressing voices, which focuses on the relationship between voice-hearer and their voice. Specially developed computer technology enables each person to create an avatar of the entity (human or non-human) that they believe is talking to them. The person then dialogues with the 'avatar, which is controlled by the therapist to reflect a) verbatim voice content b) the persons understanding of their voice. During early stages the person asserts themselves over the avatar. Over time the character of the avatar evolves to match the changing nature of the dialogue. Sessions are recorded and provided on an MP3 player. Pilot work and aims: In an initial pilot study, a maximum of 7 sessions lasting 30 minutes resulted in highly significant reductions in hallucinations and associated distress, with reported enhancements in quality of life (Leff et al., 2013). A larger scale randomised controlled trial (RCT) is currently underway, comparing AVATAR therapy with supportive counselling to determine estimates of both effectiveness and cost-effectiveness. Focus of talk: The methodology of the ongoing RCT will be presented. The delivery of AVATAR therapy within the trial will be described with reference to key therapeutic targets (e.g. low self-esteem and beliefs about power and control). Finally the different ways in which the persons understanding of their voice may evolve over the course of AVATAR therapy will be considered with reference to anonymised case examples. [Outcome data from the trial will not be presented as part of this talk].

Conference Name: 
Presentation Date: 
January, 2015
Additional Authors: 
Thomas Jamieson-Craig - Philippa. A Garety - Mar Rus-Calafell - Paul McCrone - Richard Emsley - Geoff Williams - Mark Huckvale - Julian Leff
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