Avatar Therapy is an experimental and very innovative therapy using virtual reality to mitigate the impact of resistant auditory hallucinations (ie hearing voices) on schizophrenic patients.
Developed in Montreal by researchers Alexandre Dumais and Stéphane Potvin, the Avatar Therapy has already shown promising and convincing results for treatment-resistant hallucinations, compared to usual psychological interventions.
Using a computer program specifically developed for Avatar Therapy, patients are invited to create a virtual representation (an avatar) representing the distressing voices they are hearing. Accompanied by the therapist for weekly sessions, patients engage in a dialogue with their demons, developing new strategies to face the harassing voices. Through this nine weeks therapy, patients learn how to manage and regulate the negative emotions induced by their voices, to be more assertive, and to strengthen their sense of self by developing a better control over their emotions.
While in its trial phases, Avatar Therapy already shows very positive results. After solely 9 sessions, 15 of our 19 patients who partook in our pilot project saw their quality of life improve considerably. Importantly, after following Avatar Therapy, 90% of patients noted a reduction in their hallucinations and all patients reported a reduction in their feelings of anxiety and fear towards the voice. Such results seem to also be maintained in time after the end of the therapy.
The therapy has played a contributing role in many of our patients’ lives. Some patients have begun to fulfil their potential and have embarked on a journey of recovery as was the case of our very first patient.