The Phoenix VR Self-Confidence Therapy Trial

  • Research type

    Research Study

  • Full title

    The Phoenix VR Self-Confidence Therapy Trial: A Case Series and a Randomised Controlled Trial of Automated VR Therapy to Improve the Self-Confidence of Young People Diagnosed with Psychosis



  • Contact name

    Daniel Freeman

  • Contact email

  • Sponsor organisation

    University of Oxford RGEA - Karen Melham

  • ISRCTN Number


  • Duration of Study in the UK

    1 years, 6 months, 1 days

  • Research summary

    The clinical issue: The confidence of young people diagnosed with psychosis is often low. A sense of defeat and failure is common. Withdrawal from many aspects of everyday life often occurs. For recovery, it is crucial to arrest as soon as possible this downward spiral in which a lack of confidence leads to withdrawal, which brings further feelings of defeat and fewer opportunities for positive experiences. There are psychological techniques that can improve self-confidence. However, very few patients ever receive such psychological therapy due to a shortage of therapists.

    Intervention: Virtual reality (VR) offers an exceptionally promising route out of this impasse. VR enables users to repeatedly experience therapeutically beneficial simulations, with the learning transferring to the real world. VR treatment can be made compelling and entertaining. Automating treatment by inclusion of a virtual coach removes reliance on the availability of therapists. With young people with lived experience, we have developed an automated VR therapy to improve self-confidence (Phoenix). The treatment is based on established cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and positive psychology techniques. Phoenix builds on our team’s successful development and testing of two other automated VR therapies for patients with psychosis: gameChange and THRIVE.

    Evaluation: We predict that Phoenix will obtain high ease of use ratings, up-take, and patient satisfaction. This will be tested in an initial case series with 12 patients with a non-affective psychosis diagnosis, aged 16-26 years old, and with low self-confidence. The potential clinical treatment effects on self-confidence will also be evaluated. We predict that Phoenix will produce large improvements in self-confidence. This will be tested in a randomised controlled trial with 80 patients. People will be allocated at random to receive Phoenix or not. Usual care will continue. Everyone’s progress will be assessed at 0 (baseline), 6 (end of treatment), and 12 weeks (follow-up).

  • REC name

    London - Harrow Research Ethics Committee

  • REC reference


  • Date of REC Opinion

    4 May 2022

  • REC opinion

    Further Information Favourable Opinion