Avatar Therapy

Avatar Therapy is a new approach to the treatment of certain mental health conditions, particularly auditory hallucinations (hearing voices). The therapy was invented by Prof. Julian Leff to improve the lives of schizophrenic patients suffering from persecutory voice hallucinations despite the best available drug treatment. In Avatar Therapy, computer avatars are designed by patients to give a face to the voices they hear; these avatars then interact with the patient in a simulation of their persecutory voice. Under direction from therapists patients are encouraged to challenge the voice and allow it to come gradually under the patient's control.

Current state of Avatar Therapy

You can read details about the science of Avatar Therapy and obtain references to published articles at the Avatar Therapy Project website.

We have recently completed a major clinical trial of Avatar Therapy at the Institute of Psychiatry funded by the Wellcome Trust. This trial involved 150 patients with persecutory voices divided between two therapy approaches. The results of this trial has recently been published in the The Lancet Psychiatry. A short video about the Avatar Therapy trial can be seen in this BBC News report.

A software system for providing Avatar Therapy in the clinic is currently in beta test. We are seeking clinical partners to help us test and evaluate this software. We are offering free but time-limited licences that allow the Avatar Therapy software system to be evaluated by clinicians. Note the the software does not yet have regulatory approval as a medical device, so may not be used for the treatment of patients outside specific scientific trials.

Training courses for clinicians wishing to use Avatar Therapy with patients are currently under development.

Who to contact for more information

  • If you are interested in finding out about the future clinical availability of Avatar Therapy, please contact Prof. Tom Craig at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London. thomas.craig@kcl.ac.uk
  • If you are interested in how the Avatar Therapy software system works or what hardware would be required to run the system, please contact Prof. Mark Huckvale at the Department of Speech, Hearing and Phonetic Sciences, University College London: m.huckvale@ucl.ac.uk
  • If you are a clinician interested in obtaining a licence to evaluate the software system, please contact Derek Reay at UCL Business: d.reay@uclb.com.
  • If you are a clinician interested in attending a training course on how Avatar Therapy can be used with patients, please contact Prof. Alex Leff at Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London: a.leff@ucl.ac.uk

© 2017 Mark Huckvale