Virtual reality therapy for depression

What is this research?

People experiencing depression struggle with distressing symptoms that include low mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, low energy, disturbed sleep or appetite and poor concentration. These symptoms often lead to withdrawal and isolation, and avoidance of activities that are normally enjoyable. As a result, these behaviours can make these feelings even worse. Breaking out of this cycle can be extremely difficult.

Technologies, such as virtual reality (VR) may be able to help people with depression. VR therapy involves wearing a headset and exploring a computer-generated environment. A virtual coach guides users through their thoughts, feelings and responses in certain situations. The idea is that this could help people develop skills to manage their difficult feelings.

To explore the possibility of using VR to help people with depression, the McPin Foundation are working with Oxford VR to design an approach that is suitable, effective and appropriate for people with these experiences. This project aims to develop the therapy to the point that its effectiveness can be tested in a research study.

Why is this research important?

Currently people with depression are usually referred to Improving Access to Psychological Therapy (IAPT) services for psychological therapy. But it is not clear whether these services fully meet the needs of people with depression. Having VR therapy as an option could enable people to access therapy sooner but it may also be more appealing to some people than current options. What’s more, through VR, people are able to acquire – and practise – skills they need in the real world in the virtual world.

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

The McPin Foundation are facilitating the service user involvement for this study in the form of user-development workshops and a Lived Experience Advisory Panel (LEAP). McPin will ensure that people with lived experience of depression have their voices heard during the VR design process, as well as supporting them to advise and shape the rest of the project. Some of the McPin staff who are supporting this project will draw from their own experiences of depression to offer input and expertise.

What is the current status of the project?

Currently, we are recruiting for people to attend some workshops centred around developing the VR therapy. At a later date we will be forming a Lived Experience Advisory Panel for this project. This will probably be formed of people who are part of the workshop group. If you are interested, please see the links below for more information/FAQs and the application form.

More information about this opportunity


Application form

Closing date: 5pm Wednesday 13th November (DEADLINE EXTENDED)

Where can I find more information?

You can learn about Oxford VR by clicking here.

For further queries about service user involvement, please contact Anja Hollowell by email: or by phone: 0207 922 7871.