gameChange: Improving lives through Virtual Reality therapy


Many people experiencing psychosis find social situations difficult and consequently withdraw from everyday activities. Isolation and lack of activity means that people often develop physical health problems and their mental health deteriorates. It has been suggested that use of modern technologies, such as virtual reality (VR), could be used as a form of therapy for some people affected by psychosis.


VR therapy involves wearing a headset and interacting with computer-generated people, or avatars. Uniquely, in this VR therapy, a virtual coach will guide a user through their thoughts, feelings, and responses in certain social situations. In this study, people with psychosis, designers, researchers, and NHS staff will work together to develop the VR therapy to ensure the best user experience. A further consultation process will produce a guide to using VR in NHS psychosis services.


Professor Daniel Freeman and his team based at the University of Oxford have received funding from the National Institute of Health Research (NiHR), working with a number of different organisations, to test the effectiveness of VR therapy for people with psychosis. It is planned that 432 people with psychosis will be recruited to take part in a clinical trial. Half of the participants will receive their usual treatment, and half will receive six sessions of the new VR therapy. Participants’ physical activity levels, symptoms, and quality of life before and after treatment will be assessed. The study team will also analyse the treatment cost-effectiveness, and produce a commissioning case and implementation toolkit for the VR therapy to be used in the NHS nationwide.

Why is this research important?

Currently, only 5% of people experiencing psychosis receive psychological therapy, and that therapy seldom directly addresses social withdrawal. This study will use cutting-edge VR technology to enable people to practise skills in a computer-simulated world, which may help to reduce problems in real life. This innovative approach could help to reduce anxiety and paranoia in people experiencing psychosis, and may also help to improve their engagement in everyday activities.


How are McPin and people with psychosis involved in this research?

The McPin Foundation will be facilitating the service user involvement for this study in the form of a Lived Experience Advisory Panel (LEAP) of 11 service users. The LEAP will provide advice and assistance to the wider study team as the research progresses. The McPin Foundation and the LEAP will also work with the Royal College of Art, who will be running workshops to re-design the VR environments. McPin peer researchers will also be assisting with designing and running the patient qualitative studies.


What is the current status of the project? 

The study began on the 1st June 2018 and will run for three years. Participant recruitment will commence in early 2019.


Recruitment of members to join the Lived Experience Advisory Panel for this study is now closed.


The Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, Royal College of Art and McPin are looking for people to be involved in workshops and interviews. These workshops will be focused on helping to understand people’s experiences of psychosis and applying this to the design of the VR environments used in the therapy. The workshops and interviews will start in July 2018.


To find out more about these workshops and interviews, and how to register your interest, please click here.


Where can I find more information?

Visit the gameChange website for more information.

For further queries please contact Tillie Cryer or Thomas Kabir by email: or or by phone: 0207 922 7874.


For more information about this study please click on the links below:

Please see below for links to press releases related to this study: