Study: Testing a Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy App

Posted 8th October 2021

You are invited to take part in a remote trial of Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy aimed at reducing social anxiety in people who stammer.

Background & purpose

The Design Psychology lab at Imperial College London (ICL) have been working on a smartphone app to help with stammering. It delivers Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy, which aims to reduce levels of social anxiety in people who stammer. They want you to help them trial the app and see how effective the treatment is.

What will it involve?

Treatment will be conducted remotely using a smartphone VR app. There'll be three weekly sessions, each involving a number of exercises. For these exercises, you will be immersed in virtual environments replicating social situations you may find difficult. In these environments, you'll be asked to perform a number of social tasks. A virtual therapist will be present throughout treatment to guide you through the exercises and to support you.

You will also be asked to complete a series of online questionnaires and a short behavioural exercise conducted in VR. You can do these in-person at ICL if you want.

The trial will last seven weeks in total. The first three weeks will cover the treatment phase. During this time, you will receive treatment and complete the pre- and post-treatment assessments. The following four weeks will cover the follow-up phase.

Who can take part?

To take part in the study, you need to be: 

  • a person who stammers 
  • English-speaking 
  • a UK resident 
  • aged over 18 
  • in possession of a smartphone (iPhone/Android) and headphones/earphones. 

Those who attend the in-person assessments must be able to travel into ICL and have either received two Covid-19 vaccines (14 days prior to the first assessment) or a negative Lateral Flow Test result within 48 hours of each assessment. The NHS Covid Pass can be used as proof of this.

You cannot take part if you:

  • participated in the pilot trial or focus groups we advertised on this site earlier this year
  • have psychosis/schizophrenia/epilepsy/dementia/amnesia/bipolar disorder/intellectual disability/ASD 
  • currently use tranquilizers or have had a change in dosage of antidepressants in the past 6 weeks
  • currently have suicidal ideation 
  • are alcohol/substance dependent 
  • have severe cognitive impairment 
  • have had treatment for social anxiety within the last year 
  • have had or will be participating in any other psychotherapeutic treatments during the study
  • have severe cyber/motion-sickness.

Where is it?

For all participants, treatment sessions will be conducted remotely. If you can travel into Imperial College London, we encourage you to consider participating in the in-person assessments at pre- and post-treatment.

When is it?

You can sign up to take part in the trial until March 2022.

Will I get paid?

You will receive a £10 Amazon e-voucher for taking part in this study. The cardboard headset will be yours to keep.

Contact

If you would like to participate or have any other queries, please contact Ian Chard at i.chard18@imperial.ac.uk