Here is an excerpt from CNN’s story on Keris Myrick, former president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and former leader of a large, peer-led organization for people with mental illness. She has schizophrenia and her story with hearing voices was described as this:

“Myrick, now in her 50s, started hearing voices in her early 20s. They sprung up in the grocery store, telling her the food was poisoned. She stopped eating for months and was diagnosed with an eating disorder. It took years before doctors considered that her disorder might fall on the schizophrenia spectrum.”

Common symptoms associated with schizophrenia, a disorder that affects a person’s ability to think, feel, and behave clearly, are hearing voices, hallucinations, delusions, and having difficulty concentrating. The voices a person with schizophrenia may hear could be critical or threatening, and may involve voices that the person is either familiar or unfamiliar with. An invention developed in 2008 called “Avatar Therapy” has been growing more popular over the years, with some studies showing effectiveness in helping patients with schizophrenia manage their symptoms. How does it work?

The computer program allows patients to build a face that matches one of their voices – patients can alter small facial features such as thickening of eyebrows, coloring on cheekbones, and can also change the race of the avatar. A therapist sits in another room and speaks through the avatar, using the software to change the pitch of the voice until it matches what the patient hears in their head. Over several sessions, patients learn to stand up to the voice and at times, the voice will surrender as well to help the patient develop higher self-esteem.

A study conducted in 2017 titled, “AVATAR therapy for auditory verbal hallucinations in people with psychosis: a single blind, randomized control trial” involved 150 patients with schizophrenia who experienced auditory verbal hallucinations. Seventy-five patients were randomly assigned to avatar therapy, and 75 patients were randomly assigned to counseling. After 12 weeks of treatment for both control groups, avatar therapy was found to be more helpful in reducing the severity of persistent voices heard than counseling alone.

Other studies have been conducted and have shown success, with some patients even reporting a disappearance in voices after 12 weeks or more. As much research is being conducted, avatar therapy may be making its way further into more treatment programs.

New Vista Behavioral Health is home to several world-renowned, California state-licensed mental health and substance abuse recovery treatment programs. If you have schizophrenia and are ready to begin a journey towards developing the tools you need to manage day to day life, call us today at 888-316-3665 for a consultation.


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