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INTRODUCTION: The confidence of young people diagnosed with psychosis is often low. Positive self-beliefs may be few and negative self-beliefs many. A sense of defeat and failure is common. Young people often withdraw from many aspects of everyday life. Psychological well-being is lowered. Psychological techniques can improve self-confidence, but a shortage of therapists means that very few patients ever receive such help. Virtual reality (VR) offers a potential route out of this impasse. By including a virtual coach, treatment can be automated. As such, delivery of effective therapy is no longer reliant on the availability of therapists. With young people with lived experience, we have developed a staff-assisted automated VR therapy to improve positive self-beliefs (Phoenix). The treatment is based on established cognitive behavioural therapy and positive psychology techniques. A case series indicates that this approach may lead to large improvements in positive self-beliefs and psychological well-being. We now aim to conduct the first randomised controlled evaluation of Phoenix VR. METHODS AND ANALYSIS: 80 patients with psychosis, aged between 16 and 30 years old and with low levels of positive self-beliefs, will be recruited from National Health Service (NHS) secondary care services. They will be randomised (1:1) to the Phoenix VR self-confidence therapy added to treatment as usual or treatment as usual. Assessments will be conducted at 0, 6 (post-treatment) and 12 weeks by a researcher blind to allocation. The primary outcome is positive self-beliefs at 6 weeks rated with the Oxford Positive Self Scale. The secondary outcomes are psychiatric symptoms, activity levels and quality of life. All main analyses will be intention to treat. ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: The trial has received ethical approval from the NHS Health Research Authority (22/LO/0273). A key output will be a high-quality VR treatment for patients to improve self-confidence and psychological well-being. TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: ISRCTN10250113.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ Open

Publication Date





Clinical Trial, Schizophrenia & psychotic disorders, Virtual Reality, Humans, Adolescent, Young Adult, Adult, Psychological Well-Being, Quality of Life, Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy, State Medicine, Treatment Outcome, Psychotic Disorders, Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic