Comparaison of Avatar Therapy to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Schizophrenia With Treatment Refractory Hallucinations (Phase3)

  • STATUS
    Recruiting
  • End date
    Apr 1, 2024
  • participants needed
    136
  • sponsor
    Ciusss de L'Est de l'Île de Montréal
Updated on 15 February 2022

Summary

Schizophrenia is associated with long-lasting health, social and financial burden for patients, families, caregivers and society. According to the World Health Organization, this burdensome illness is one of the top 10 causes of disability in developed countries. The costs associated with hospitalization, lifelong treatment and loss of productivity lead to a great economic burden. In Canada, the total annual costs associated with schizophrenia are over $10 billion. The main reason for this heavy burden is that 25-30% of schizophrenia patients respond very poorly to antipsychotic medication. Moreover, psychotherapeutic treatment alternatives are very limited for this suffering population. This unmet clinical need requires innovation and action. Psychotherapeutic treatment alternatives such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) are very limited and provide at best moderate results. Virtual reality (VR) opens new exciting avenues to treat this illness. With immersive VR, our team recently tested a novel psychotherapeutic intervention, Avatar Therapy (AT), where the therapist engages in a dialogue with the patient through a virtual representation of their distressing voice. This relational and experiential approach offers a unique opportunity to help patients gain control over their voice. The preliminary results of our randomized-controlled trial (RCT) pilot showed a large effect on auditory verbal hallucination for AT and a moderate effect for CBT. The main goal of the currently proposed RCT study will be to examine if AT is superior to CBT for the treatment of chronic auditory hallucinations in schizophrenia. As evidence-based therapeutic options are limited for this burdensome illness and provide only modest symptomatic relief, the current trial will contribute to the validation of a novel approach answering a fundamental clinical need. The demonstration of the superior efficacy of AT would be a great breakthrough and will open new avenues to clinical treatment.

Description

Schizophrenia is associated with long-lasting health, social and financial burden for patients, families, caregivers and society. According to the World Health Organization, this burdensome illness is one of the top 10 causes of disability in developed countries. The costs associated with hospitalization, lifelong treatment and loss of productivity lead to a great economic burden. In Canada, the total annual costs associated with schizophrenia are over $10 billion. The main reason for this heavy burden is that 25-30% of schizophrenia patients respond very poorly to antipsychotic medication. Moreover, psychotherapeutic treatment alternatives are very limited for this suffering population. This unmet clinical need requires innovation and action. Psychotherapeutic treatment alternatives such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) provide at best moderate results. Using immersive virtual reality, our team recently tested a novel psychotherapeutic intervention, Avatar Therapy (AT), where the therapist engages in a dialogue with the patient through a virtual representation of the patient's distressing voice. This approach, being both relational and experiential, provides a unique opportunity to aid patients gain control over their voice. The results of our pilot study on AT were clinically promising for the severity and distress related to hallucinations, positive symptomatology and emotion regulation. The preliminary results of our small pilot randomized-controlled trial showed a large effect of AT on auditory verbal hallucination, while a moderate effect was found for our adapted short CBT for hallucinations. To further research in this field, the primary goal of this single-blinded randomized-controlled, single-site parallel study is to show that AT is superior to CBT for the treatment of persistent auditory hallucinations in schizophrenia. The secondary goal is to examine the effects of these interventions on emotion regulation, mood symptoms (anxiety and depression), self-esteem, level of functioning and quality of life. To do so, each treatment group will include 68 participants over 18 years of age hearing persecutory voices and suffering from treatment resistant schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. AT comprises of 9 weekly sessions: 1 avatar creation session and 8 therapeutic sessions, where the patients are confronted to their reproduced hallucinatory experience and are encouraged to enter in a dialogue with their virtual persecutor. CBT includes 9 weekly sessions consisting of learning modules and task assignments. Subjects will be evaluated at pre- and post-treatment. Follow-ups will be ensured at 3, 6 and 12 months to assess primary (auditory hallucination) and secondary outcomes. Mixed model analyses will be performed to measure and compare the effects of both interventions. As evidence-based therapeutic options are limited for this burdensome illness and provide only modest symptomatic relief, the current trial will contribute to the validation of a novel approach answering a fundamental clinical need. Ultimately, the demonstration of the superior efficacy of AT would be a great breakthrough and will open new avenues to clinical treatment.

Details
Condition Auditory Hallucination, Verbal, Treatment-resistant Schizophrenia
Treatment Cognitive behavioral therapy, Avatar Therapy
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT04054778
SponsorCiusss de L'Est de l'Île de Montréal
Last Modified on15 February 2022

Eligibility

Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

DSM-5 diagnosis of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder
Distressing auditory verbal hallucinations
Did not respond to 2 antipsychotic trials
Stable doses of medication during the last 2 months prior to enrollment

Exclusion Criteria

Substance use disorder within the last 12 months
Neurological disorder
Intellectual disability
Unstable and serious physical illnesses
Experiencing an acute psychotic episode
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for psychosis within the last 12 months
Clear my responses

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