A virtual reality (VR) treatment has been approved for use in NHS mental health services. This automated VR therapy is designed to provide a safe and controlled environment for patients with agoraphobia to practice re-entering daily situations.
After an extensive clinical trial of VR for mental health overseen by Professor Daniel Freeman, chair of Psychology at Oxford University, the VR automated therapy program game-change is now advised for NHS use in treating severe agoraphobia in psychosis patients, with more evidence collection currently underway.
A collaborative effort involving university, health, and industry experts, including researchers from Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre (OH BRC), led to the creation of the gameChange VR program which aims to address prevalent intense fears about being outside in everyday situations. For numerous patients, these fears escalate into severe agoraphobia, leading them to avoid leaving their homes.
“gameChange has been designed in collaboration with people with lived experience and can help patients who are largely housebound get back to everyday activities,” said professor Freeman in a post. “gameChange was tested in the largest ever clinical trial of virtual reality for a mental health condition – this trial has led to it becoming the first VR therapy recommended for use in the NHS. gameChange can be a way of getting high quality psychological therapy to many more of the people who need it.”
Reconnecting patients to the real world
The reluctance to venture outside significantly disrupts a patient’s daily life. gameChange is specifically crafted to address this state of agoraphobia, assisting patients in reconnecting with everyday activities by helping them to transition from a confined existence at home and into the external world. This will allow them to continue their education, maintain relationships, pursue employment and engage in social activities.
Agoraphobia frequently goes untreated or receives inadequate attention in adults dealing with various mental health conditions. gameChange’s VR therapy offers cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques that are supported by mental health professionals. This approach demands less time for administration, providing patients with easier access to treatment.
Research for gameChange received funding through a substantial award from the UK Department of Health—the first National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) i4i (Invention for Innovation) Mental Health Challenge Award. It also received support from the NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre.