Although social skills training (SST) is an effective approach for improving social skills for schizophrenia, the motivational deficit attenuates its efficacy. Virtual reality (VR) applications have allowed individuals with mental disabilities to enhance their motivation for rehabilitation. We compared SST using VR role-playing (SST-VR) to SST using traditional role-playing (SST-TR). This randomized, controlled trial included 91 inpatients with schizophrenia who were assigned to either SST-VR (n=46) or SST-TR (n=45). Both groups were administered over 10 semiweekly group sessions. An experienced, blinded rater assessed vocal, nonverbal and conversational skills. We also obtained data on motivation for SST and various social abilities. Throughout the 10 sessions, the SST-VR group (n=33) showed greater interest in SST and generalization of the skills than the SST-TR group (n=31). After SST, the SST-VR group improved more in conversational skills and assertiveness than the SST-TR group, but less in nonverbal skills. The VR application in role-plays of SST for schizophrenia may be particularly beneficial in terms of improving the conversational skills and assertiveness, possibly through its advantages in enhancing motivation for SST and generalization of the skills, and thus it may be a useful supplement to traditional SST.
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