Heka VR combines psychotherapy, avatar therapy, and virtual reality to help patients fight auditory hallucinations more effectively through personalized treatment and fewer side effects.
Schizophrenia is one of the top 15 leading causes of disability worldwide, which has terrible consequences for patients and their families. The financial costs associated with schizophrenia are disproportionately high relative to other chronic mental and physical health conditions, reflecting both direct costs of health care as well as indirect costs of lost productivity, criminal justice involvement, social service needs, and other factors beyond health care.
Heka VR combines psychotherapy, avatar therapy, and virtual reality to help patients fight auditory hallucinations more effectively through personalized treatment and fewer side effects. Over 12 weeks, the patient participates in up to 9 face-to-face sessions with the therapist who can alter roles and play the avatar to enable direct confrontation of the patient’s voice(s). All content is GDPR and HIPAA-compliant by design: no data is saved, and only the avatar key is generated. Patients can audio record sessions and listen to them with family, storing sessions on an external hard drive that is in full possession and responsibility of the patient.
Avatar therapy was invented by the acclaimed, award-winning psychiatrist Julian Leff who discovered that recreating an avatar to represent inner voices is beneficial for schizophrenia patients. Immersion in VR increases the quality and effect of treatment and enables patients deeper access to their emotional state, which extensive clinical research on exposure therapy and PTSD supports.
There are current ongoing trials in Denmark, USA, and Australia, results are unavailable until early 2024 (blinded RCTs). Also, research has been conducted that inspired our work and is confirming that VR might have a huge impact on our patient population:
Business model: B2B, B2B2C, B2G
Therapeutic area: Severe mental health illnesses: schizophrenia, eating disorder, borderline disorder, bipolar disorder, PTSD, severe depression
Maturity Stage: TRL 7
'It has already helped much more than I could ever have hoped for. It's insane.' - a patient after the pilot.
'My reality has become a shared reality' - a patient after the third session.
'After 27 years of hearing voices, I have now been voices-free for 2 years.' - a patient after the trial.
(For ethical considerations, the names of the participants are kept anonymous.)