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Embodying self-compassion within virtual reality and its effects on patients with depression

  • Caroline J. Falconer (a1), Aitor Rovira (a2), John A. King (a1), Paul Gilbert (a3), Angus Antley (a2), Pasco Fearon (a1), Neil Ralph (a4), Mel Slater (a5) and Chris R. Brewin (a1)...
Abstract
Background

Self-criticism is a ubiquitous feature of psychopathology and can be combatted by increasing levels of self-compassion. However, some patients are resistant to self-compassion.

Aims

To investigate whether the effects of self-identification with virtual bodies within immersive virtual reality could be exploited to increase self-compassion in patients with depression.

Method

We developed an 8-minute scenario in which 15 patients practised delivering compassion in one virtual body and then experienced receiving it from themselves in another virtual body.

Results

In an open trial, three repetitions of this scenario led to significant reductions in depression severity and self-criticism, as well as to a significant increase in self-compassion, from baseline to 4-week follow-up. Four patients showed clinically significant improvement.

Conclusions

The results indicate that interventions using immersive virtual reality may have considerable clinical potential and that further development of these methods preparatory to a controlled trial is now warranted.

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Copyright
This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Corresponding author
Chris R. Brewin, Clinical, Educational, and Health Psychology, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK. Email: c.brewin@ucl.ac.uk
Footnotes
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Declaration of interest

None.

Footnotes
References
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Embodying self-compassion within virtual reality and its effects on patients with depression

  • Caroline J. Falconer (a1), Aitor Rovira (a2), John A. King (a1), Paul Gilbert (a3), Angus Antley (a2), Pasco Fearon (a1), Neil Ralph (a4), Mel Slater (a5) and Chris R. Brewin (a1)...
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