Virtual reality cognitive-behavioural therapy versus cognitive-behavioural therapy for paranoid delusions: a study protocol for a single-blind multi-Centre randomised controlled superiority trial

M. Berkhof*, E. C. D. van der Stouwe, B. Lestestuiver, E. Van't Hag, R. van Grunsven, J. de Jager, E. Kooijmans, C. E. R. Zandee, A. B. P. Staring, R. M. C. A. Pot-Kolder, M. Vos, W. Veling

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background: Seventy per cent of patients with psychotic disorders has paranoid delusions. Paranoid delusions are associated with significant distress, hospital admission and social isolation. Cognitive-behavioural therapy for psychosis (CBTp) is the primary psychological treatment, but the median effect size is only small to medium. Virtual reality (VR) has a great potential to improve the effectiveness of CBTp. In a previous study, we found that VR based CBT (VRcbt) for paranoid delusions is superior to waiting list. As a next step, a direct comparison with CBTp is needed. The present study aims to investigate whether VRcbt is more effective and cost-effective than regular CBTp in treating paranoid delusions and improving daily life social functioning of patients with psychotic disorders.

Methods: A total of 106 patients with DSM-5 diagnosis of psychotic disorder and at least moderate level of paranoid ideations will be recruited for this multicentre randomized controlled trial (RCT). Patients will be randomized to either VRcbt or standard CBTp for paranoid delusions. VRcbt consists of maximum 16 sessions in virtual social situations that trigger paranoid ideations and distress, delivered in an 8-12 week time frame. Standard CBTp also consists of maximum 16 sessions including exposure and behavioural experiments, delivered in an 8-12 week time frame.

The two groups will be compared at baseline, post-treatment and six months follow-up. Primary outcome is the level of paranoid ideations in daily life social situations, measured with ecological momentary assessments (EMA) at semi-random moments ten times a day during seven days, before and after treatment. Every session, participants and therapists will rate the level of paranoid ideation and global clinical impression.

Discussion: Comparison of VRcbt and CBTp will provide information about the relative (cost-) effectiveness of VRcbt for this population. VRcbt may become a preferred psychological treatment for paranoid delusions and social anxiety in patients with psychotic disorder.

Original languageEnglish
Article number496
Number of pages10
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 11-Oct-2021


  • Psychotic disorder
  • Paranoia
  • Delusions
  • Social anxiety
  • Virtual reality
  • Cognitive Behavioural therapy
  • Social functioning
  • Cost-effectivity

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