MonthNovember 2017

Reading of the Week: Is AVATAR Therapy a Breakthrough for Those Who Hear Voices? The New Lancet Psychiatry Paper

From the Editor

“The voices won’t leave me alone.”

A patient made this comment to me recently. And it’s an experience many patients have had. Despite medications and follow up, the voices continue to be problematic.

This week, we look at a new paper from The Lancet Psychiatry which considers a novel approach: AVATAR therapy.

In this study, patients who experienced auditory hallucinations created a computerized simulation (avatar) of the voice they most wanted to influence, including what the voice said, how it sounded, and how the “entity” with the voice looked like. Patients, working with a therapist who controlled the avatar, then had therapy sessions in which they could talk to it. Patients were compared on several measures to those who only received supportive therapy.

The paper has received significant media attention including CNN and BBC.

1124avatar2The Face of the Voice – and a Step Toward Healing?

Spoiler alert: the therapy helped – at least initially – but the results are complicated. (And, no, this isn’t “fake news,” to borrow a phrase from an American politician.)

In this Reading, we consider the paper and its findings.

DG

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Reading of the Week: The Pill That Talks to Doctors, & More

From the Editor

The pill. The criticism. The question.

Readings have covered everything from new books to political speeches. This week, we consider a few thought-provoking pieces. Is there a common theme? Maybe this: the world of mental health care is changing – and fast.

In these three selections, we look at: the pill that talks to doctors and family, the criticism of digital health, the question about the true nature of schizophrenia.

Enjoy.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Better Sleep, Less Psychosis? The Freeman et al. Study on Sleep & CBT

From the Editor

If students sleep better, are they less likely to have mental health problems like paranoia?

In this week’s Reading, we look at a new study from The Lancet Psychiatry. In this single-blind, randomized controlled trial, Oxford professor Daniel Freeman et al. consider students from 26 universities with insomnia, assigning them CBT (offered over the internet) or the usual care.

Spoiler alert: the students with CBT did better.

Sleep: good for babies, teddy bears, and students

In this Reading, we review that paper and consider the broader implications.

DG

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Reading of the Week: ECT – Safe, Effective but Declining Use. The Lemasson et al. Study on ECT in Quebec

From the Editor

It’s an effective treatment for depression – maybe the most effective. Yet ECT remains highly controversial. Patients routinely ask about its safety; the media portrayal is tough.

This week, we look at two new studies on electroconvulsive therapy. In the first, just published in The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, the authors consider the use of ECT in Quebec over a 15-year period, finding a decline over time.

An ECT Machine: going the way of the dodo bird?

We also look at a new paper from Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica considering the safety of ECT, tapping a rich database.

These new papers point to a public health problem: the treatment is incredibly safe (and effective) but used less and less often.

Note: there will be no Reading next week.

DG

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