Edit Vass1, Lajos Simon, MD, Ph.D2
1Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg County Hospitals and University Teaching Hospital, Jósa András Teachning Hospital, Department of Psychiatry, Nyíregyháza
2Semmelweis University, Faculty of Health, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Budapest
Background: Theory of Mind (ToM) deficit and pragmatic language impairments are associated with poor social functioning in schizophrenia, which usually stays a major obstacle in the way of full recovery despite the successful pharmacotherapeutic amelioration of psychotic symptoms. Since existing psycho-social interventions are usually described by the terms of low adherence and high-burden, and often criticized for the incapability of personalization and unclear theoretical background, alternative strategy is needed.
Aim: Our purpose is to develop a novel intervention, that uses Virtual Reality (VR) technologies and cognitive and behavioral therapy techniques; and assess its feasibility in a two-phase study.
Method: In phase I, VR-based intervention was developed. Throughout review of the literature on ToM and pragmatic language impairment in schizophrenia formed the base of the development. Repeated focus groups, test-interviews and test-simulations were the main methods applied during the development. In phase II, assessment of feasibility of the mentioned intervention became the focus through a randomized controlled trial, with a three-month follow-up. Psychopathology, neurocognition, ToM, pragmatic language impairment and social functioning are assessed in all cases.
Results: Phase I has been already closed. As a result, a targeted VR-simulation based intervention, called VR-ToMIS (VR based ToM Intervention in Schizophrenia) has been developed. Phase II is still in progress. Preliminary experiences hold the promise of the success of this approach. The intervention is well tolerated, and according to the participants' personal reports they found themselves more effective during social interactions after participating in VR-ToMIS.
Conclusion: VR-ToMIS is a targeted ToM intervention, that uses simulated social interactions with different levels of complexity. The intervention is structured, but can be personalized at the same time, which might be the strongest feature of it. Our experience so far indicate, that VR-ToMIS might be an effective tool in the hands of the therapist in the future.
Doctoral School: Mental Health Sciences School of Ph.D.
Supervisor: Lajos Simon
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org