Virtual reality-assisted assessment of paranoid ideation in forensic psychiatric inpatients: A mixed-methods pilot study

Richard Hedström, Märta Wallinius, Kristina Sygel, Chris N.W. Geraets*

*Corresponding author for this work

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    Background: Reliable and valid assessment of paranoia is important in forensic psychiatry for providing adequate care. VR technology may add to current assessment procedures, as it enables observation within realistic (social) situations resembling the complexity of everyday life. VR constitutes a promising tool within forensics, due to the restricted nature of forensic psychiatric hospitals and ethical challenges arising from observing potentially dangerous behaviors in real life. Objective: To investigate the feasibility of VR assessment for paranoid ideation in forensic psychiatric inpatients qualitatively by assessing the experiences of patients and a clinician, and to explore how the VR measures relate to established clinical measures. Methods: One clinician (experienced psychiatrist) and 10 forensic psychiatric inpatients with a history or suspicion of paranoid ideation were included. Patients participated in two immersive VR scenarios (bus and supermarket) during which paranoia was assessed by the clinician. Qualitative interviews were performed with patients and the clinician performing the assessment to investigate experiences and feasibility. Further, measures of paranoia, social anxiety, and positive symptoms were obtained. Results: Nine out of 10 participants with varying levels of paranoid ideation completed the assessment. Manifest inductive content analyses of the interviews revealed general experiences, advantages such as enabling observing participants from a different perspective, and challenges of the VR assessment, such as a lack of objectivity and the laboriousness of the assessment for the clinician. Although more paranoia was experienced during the supermarket scenario, correlates with classical measures were only significant for the bus scenario. Discussion: The VR assessment was appreciated by most patients and the clinician. Based on our results short, standardized VR assessment scenarios are feasible, however, they do not appear reliable or objective for assessing paranoia. The clinical usefulness is most likely as a collaborative tool and add-on measure to existing methods.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number1242243
    Number of pages15
    JournalFrontiers in Psychology
    Publication statusPublished - 7-Dec-2023


    • assessment
    • diagnostics
    • forensic psychiatry
    • mental disorders
    • paranoia
    • psychiatry
    • virtual reality

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