Avatar Therapy Aids Schizophrenia Treatment (Time)

Computer simulation is now allowing schizophrenic patients to confront the voices in their head — face to face. Psychiatrist Julian Leff has developed a treatment during which patients customize the facial features and voices of computer-generated on-screen avatars to represent the voices in their heads.

The psychiatrist then speaks distressing messages to them through the avatars and encourages the patients to “fight back.” Patients who received several sessions of this treatment reported hearing the voices less — and being less distraught when they did. Time describes the potential of this treatment to lessen depression and suicidal thoughts as well as the symptoms of schizophrenia patients.

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