Comprehensive review on virtual reality for the treatment of violence: implications for youth with schizophrenia

NPJ Schizophr. 2019 Jul 23;5(1):11. doi: 10.1038/s41537-019-0079-7.


Youth violence is a complex and multifactorial issue that has severe health and social consequences. While treatment options exist to treat/reduce violence in at-risk populations such as schizophrenia, there remains limitations in the efficacy of current interventions. Virtual reality (VR) appears to be a unique possibility to expose offenders and to train coping skills in virtual situations that are capable of eliciting aggression-relevant behavior without threatening others. The focus of this paper is to provide a comprehensive review of studies using VR to manage violence across several at-risk populations, with a particular emphasis on youth with schizophrenia. Despite the encouraging success of VR applications for the treatment of different mental health problems, no studies have explored the usability of VR to specifically treat violence in patients with schizophrenia. A limited number of studies have focused on violence risk factors in other mental health problems (i.e., emotion regulation in individual suffering from post-traumatic disorders) that may be targeted in treatments to reduce the risk of violence. The preliminary studies using VR as a therapeutic element have shown reductions in anger, improvements in conflict-resolution skills as well as in empathy levels, and decreases in aggression. Possible applications of these interventions in youth with schizophrenia will be discussed.

Publication types

  • Review