This project has received funding from the European
Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon
2020 research and innovation programme.
Grant agreement No. 834033 AN-ICON.

2019/2020

Event

Department of Philosophy, Sala Seminari

Seminar of Philosophy of Image

Envisioning a Voice: the AVATAR Therapy for Auditory Verbal Hallucinations

Thomas Craig King’s College London

Distressing auditory visual hallucinations (“voices”) are a common feature of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia and often persist despite pharmacological or psychological treatment. Many patients feel frustrated that their experience is difficult to share with others and poorly understood by their psychiatrist or therapist. AVATAR therapy uses digital technology to create a visual representation (avatar) of the voice that closely matches what the patient says they experience. This avatar is used in a videoconferencing format to enable a trialogue between patient, avatar and therapist. The therapist, advising the patient and controlling the avatar, enables the patient to challenge the voice that responds by becoming less threatening and concedes power over the course of 6-8 treatment sessions. The approach has been shown to be highly effective in controlled clinical trials in reducing the frequency of voices and associated distress. In this presentation, I will demonstrate the creation and use of the avatar in therapy, briefly review evidence for efficacy and describe a new project that attempts to develop our understanding of the effective therapeutic mechanisms.

See: Craig et al., AVATAR therapy for auditory verbal hallucinations in people with psychosis: a single-blind, randomised controlled trial, “Lancet Psychiatry” n. 5, 2018, pp. 31-40.
keywords Auditory Verbal Hallucinations; AVATAR Therapy; Psychological Therapy; Schizophrenia.

Tom K J Craig,  PhD FRCPsych Emeritus Professor of Social Psychiatry,  King’s College London. Qualified in medicine at the University of the West Indies and trained in psychiatry in Nottingham UK. He was appointed to Kings College London as Professor of Community Psychiatry in 1990 with his clinical base in the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust. His clinical research focuses on developing and evaluating community-based psychiatric services and the promotion of these solutions at a National and International level. These programmes have included residential alternatives to the hospital asylum, specialised services for homeless mentally ill people, supported employment programmes, services for first episode psychosis and studies of the computer-based AVATAR programme for the treatment of auditory hallucinations.