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Researchers Test Computer-Based Therapy

Armen Hareyan's picture

Computer-Based Therapy

Researchers at the University of the West of England are carrying out a study to find out if a new type of computer-based psychological support could be beneficial for people who experience difficulties as a result of their appearance.

The research carried out by the Centre for Appearance Research (CAR) is sponsored by the charity Changing Faces, the UK charity that supports and represents people with disfigurements. The research is designed for those who consider themselves to have an altered or different appearance, for example scarring as a result of a burns injury or accident, or conditions such as psoriasis or alopecia (hair loss).

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During an eight week trial, participants in the study would attend one of the centres where the research is taking place (London, Bristol or other venues in the South West), and be asked to complete a series of short weekly exercises. The study aims to establish whether people who report having difficulties because of an appearance concern, for example feeling anxious in social situations, could benefit from computer-based support.

The study will compare this newly developed method of providing help and information for those with altered appearance against the standard psychological support, such as visiting a counsellor or therapist.

Alyson Bessell, (Post Graduate Researcher, CAR) who is leading the study, says it is an opportunity to find out how effective new ways of providing support are, and test them against existing practice, "From our research in CAR we know that some people with an altered or different appearance experience difficulties and can benefit from psychological support to help them cope with the challenges that having an unusual appearance can sometimes present. We have developed this new computer-based education tool specifically to help people deal with their anxieties and appearance-related issues".

"Increasingly the NHS is offering computer-based approaches for general anxiety and depression, and we recognize that this approach is potentially a very useful tool as a first step for those people who might benefit from psychological support in relation to their appearance. However we need to conduct this research to evaluate this new way of helping people with appearance-related concerns in order that patients have access to the most effective support for them in the long run."