Co‐designing a virtual world with young people to deliver social cognition therapy in early psychosis

Alba Realpe, Farah Elahi, Sandra Bucci, Max Birchwood, Ivo Vlaev, David Taylor, Andrew Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
362 Downloads (Pure)


Co‐design implies genuine partnership in the generation of knowledge between service users and researchers. Service user involvement in research has been encouraged in government policy, but it is rarely achieved, especially at trial initial stages. Co‐designed with service users, we adapted existing manualised social cognition intervention for people with a first episode of psychosis to a virtual world environment.

We invited a group of young people who have used mental health services to co‐design a virtual environment to deliver an accessible social cognition intervention to a hard to engage service user group. We used an iterative process with young service users and the design team that included developing initial ideas, creating a prototype and testing the virtual world.

Twenty young service users of local mental healthcare services provided feedback on the design and delivery of the intervention. Reflecting the demographic of the sample, young people felt the virtual environment should be familiar, urban spaces, akin to therapy rooms or classrooms they have used in real‐life situations rather than non‐traditional therapy spaces that were initially proposed.

The co‐design process led to the development of a specific design, approach and protocol to be tested in a proof‐of‐concept trial. Young service users were integral to an agile and iterative design. Technological innovations should be routinely co‐designed and co‐produced if they are to realise their potential to deliver acceptable and affordable mental health interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-43
Number of pages7
JournalEarly Intervention in Psychiatry
Issue number1
Early online date25 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jan 2020


  • co-design
  • first episode psychosis
  • psychosis
  • social cognition therapy
  • virtual worlds
  • young people


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