First Major Trial Of VR Therapy For Serious Mental Health Conditions Launches

VR street environment.

The first large-scale trial of virtual reality therapy for serious mental health conditions has been launched in the UK.

Healthtech startup Oxford VR has teamed up with GameChange, a £4 million project funded by UK National Institute of Health Research, to test the technology and advance its roll out across the National Health Service.

A research team led by Daniel Freeman, professor of psychology at the University of Oxford, will analyze the effectiveness of the technology and produce a commissioning case for VR therapy to be used by the NHS nationwide.

Other partners include Oxford University, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, The McPin Foundation, The Royal College of Art, NIHR, MindTech and several NHS mental health trusts.

Barnaby Perks, co-founding CEO of Oxford VR, said the project aims to establish VR Therapy as a new treatment paradigm for complex and costly serious mental health conditions such as psychosis.

He said: “Given the cost burden both directly and indirectly associated with serious and complex mental illnesses and significant undertreatment, VR Therapy is an evidence-based treatment whose time has come and can hugely benefit clinicians and patients with its patient-centred and digitally enabled solution.”

Oxford VR is targeting its therapy at people diagnosed with psychosis, a condition that affects an individual’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors. It’s estimated that the NHS cares for more than 200,000 psychosis sufferers, which accounts for 30% of NHS and social care spending.

Its technology allows people to experience situations they find stressful in a safe space and transfer their learning to the real world. The treatment is automated, with a virtual coach guiding patients through different VR scenarios and helping them practice techniques to overcome their difficulties.

Perks added: “The landmark clinical validation of NHS gameChange trial is key for VR Therapy because it provides real-life evidence for commissioning clinicians that VR Therapy is effective  and has the potential to be more cost-effective as it reduces demands on clinicians’ time.“

 “VR Therapy is transforming the mental healthcare experience. Great care has been taken to make the treatment program clinically challenging yet also engaging and even fun.

“People with a lived experience of psychosis have been central to the treatment design process and the treatment program draws on exciting gamification technology.”

Peter, who has taken part in the therapy, said: “Sometimes it gets so bad that I can’t get out of the house to even walk down the road – I worry about it so much that I just end up not being able to it.

“Whether it’s walking down the street or getting a bus, you can use the VR to practice being in those places to overcome the negative intrusive thoughts to build your confidence. So when you go back into the real world, you feel a lot better.”

[“source=forbes”]