Putting a face to the voice: AVATAR 2 trial launched today
A ground breaking therapy trial for auditory hallucinations called AVATAR2 has been extended to sites across the country including University of Manchester and University of Glasgow as well as King’s College London and University College London.
Developed by King’s College London, UCL and UCL Business, AVATAR therapy uses digital avatars to represent the auditory hallucinations experienced by people with psychosis to help them cope with the distress caused by the voices.
The launch event will take place with distinguished guests Sir Norman Lamb, Chair of South London and Maudsley NHS Trust and consultant clinical psychologist Dr Lisa Cameron, MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow.
It will include an introduction to the AVATAR2 trial and demonstrations of AVATAR therapy software by the trial team from the four trial sites; King’s College London, University College London, University of Manchester and University of Glasgow. There will be a panel Q&A session at the end of the afternoon.
These results build on a previous clinical trial, led by King’s and hosted by South London and Maudsley NHS Trust, which showed in 2018 that the therapy resulted in a rapid and substantial fall in frequency and associated distress of voices, when compared with supportive counselling alone at 12 weeks.
Professor Gillian Haddock from The University of Manchester said: “Auditory hallucinations can be frightening and distressing, so the prospect of trialing a new type of therapy is tremendously exciting. We’re delighted to be involved in this innovative project and are looking forward to collaborating with our NHS partners, Greater Manchester Mental Health Foundation NHS Trust and Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust.”
The AVATAR2 trial has two clear aims
To test two different forms of AVATAR therapy comparing each with a treatment as usual control and to find out which might be most helpful for people. People will be offered either six sessions (brief AVATAR therapy) or twelve sessions (extended AVATAR therapy), delivered weekly.
To learn more about how AVATAR therapy may work, how it can be tailored to the individual and how best to deliver the therapy in clinical services.
Professor Philippa Garety, Chief Investigator and Principal Investigator of the AVATAR2 Trial at King’s College London, said: “We have made huge strides over the past few years towards finding a talking therapy that has the potential to substantially improve the quality of life for patients who hear voices. Hearing voices can be very distressing and AVATAR therapy offers an opportunity to put a face to the voice in such a way that humanises the experience.
“What we have seen so far is that this can become much more of a balanced conversation and that voices which were once considered overwhelming and scary can now become manageable. Now more than ever with increased isolation due to COVID-19, we are looking for robust, effective treatments that make the difference for our patients.”
An online event to mark the launch of the AVATAR 2 Clinical Trial will take place this afternoon between 15:30 and 17:00