Recent research has explored the possibility that virtual reality therapy – called gameChange – could be a beneficial treatment for Psychosis and Schizophrenia [1].

Any psychotic-related illness is deeply debilitating. Therefore, having new potential treatments is always important.

The findings are positive, and could shape future treatment directions for these conditions.

People with psychosis often have an altered state of reality


Schizophrenia and Psychosis are debilitating areas of mental health. Schizophrenia is characterised by a patient having difficulty in understanding reality, normally due to how they think, feel and act. They will often exhibit delusions and/or hallucinations.

These are both symptoms of psychosis. While psychosis is not a mental health condition in its own right, it spans multiple conditions. For example, Psychotic Depression, Delusional Disorder and Shared Psychotic Disorder are other examples.

These areas are renowned to be difficult to treat. Often, a combination of talking therapy and antipsychotic medication are used. But the more potential options, the better – which is why research like the below is always welcomed.

What is gameChange?

gameChange is a type of virtual reality (VR) therapy. The therapy involves a patient putting on a headset.

It is a fully-automated process, with a virtual therapist guiding the patient through the program. It therefore reduces the number of staff members needed for treatment.

On their website, gameChange say that their software represents a “landmark psychological therapy for people with psychosis”.

The Research

The study was conducted by a team of researchers, with their findings published in the highly-respected Lancet journal [1].

The study involved 346 patients that either had schizophrenia or had symptoms of psychosis. They reported having difficulties with going outside due to associated anxiety [1].

Half of the patients were offered psychotherapy, which is a form of talking therapy. The other half were given six sessions of gameChange VR therapy [1].

After the treatment of both groups was complete, the researchers interviewed both groups and compared them. Interestingly, those who used the gameChange VR therapy had better results [1].

Those who used the gameChange VR therapy were significantly less anxious and distressed in social situations [1]. Overall, this suggested that this form of therapy enabled patients to build their confidence and partake in tasks that they would have normally avoided.

A six-month follow-up was also used, which affirmed the findings. The results were the same, with patients who had received gameChange VR therapy remaining feeling less anxious and distressed [1].

Author Comments

gameChange was developed by Daniel Freeman – who is a psychology professor at the University of Oxford. Freeman also took part in the research.

Freeman has said that VR has an “extraordinary potential” when it comes to helping people overcome their mental health problems.

Furthermore, Freeman says that “if you get over something in VR, you will get over it in real life”. While this may sound like wishful thinking, the research backs up Freeman’s comments.

Freeman has also suggested that gameChange may be able to eventually replace standard talking therapy.

It also represents easy access, with a headset (which costs around £300) being all that a patient needs. It would certainly speed up waiting times.


The findings were very positive, and suggest that VR therapy could certainly play a role in the future of mental health treatment.

While it might be some time before we see this in action, it is certainly something to keep a look out for!

See Also


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[1] Freeman, D., Lambe, S., & Kabir, T., et al (2022). Automated virtual reality therapy to treat agoraphobic avoidance and distress in patients with psychosis (gameChange): a multicentre, parallel-group, single-blind, randomised, controlled trial in England with mediation and moderation analyses. The Lancet. 9 (5): p375-388. DOI: