Many people with major depressive disorder (MDD) are ambivalent about medication or therapeutic relationships. Self-guided virtual-reality(VR)-assisted therapy is a promising approach to meet their needs. In this project, based on our previous VR-based self-assessment study of self-blame-related action tendencies, such as feeling like punishing oneself and hiding in MDD, we propose to develop such a novel intervention and probe its feasibility.
After developing a VR-based version of a previously developed self-guided self-blaming bias intervention where people were given strategies to tackle self-blame-related memories and thoughts, we propose to randomise MDD patients who have not responded to standard treatment to 1) Treatment-as-usual vs. 2) 4 weekly sessions of our novel VR-assisted intervention. This will make an indispensable contribution towards the long-term goal of delivering novel neurocognitive treatments for MDD. During year 1, the student will co-design the VR-intervention, learn how to assess patients, and how to deliver VR-interventions. Recruitment will start after 6 months and complete after the first half of year 3 (n=86, 3.6/month, n=70 completers over 24 months, allowing robust effect size estimates).
The last half of year 3 and the beginning of year 4 will be devoted to completing analyses and thesis/first-authored journal submissions describing baseline and trial results, as well as neurocognitive mechanisms in three papers. The PhD student will acquire psychotherapeutic, as well as diagnostic and skills in intervention design and clinical trials.