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Virtual reality therapy forerunner wins BPS Presidents’ Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychological Knowledge

03 November 2021

Dr Lucia Valmaggia, a world leader in early intervention in psychosis and pioneer of the use of virtual reality in relation to mental health, is the 2021 recipient of the British Psychological Society’s Presidents’ Award. 

Currently working as the head of King’s College , London VR Lab Dr Valmaggia is widely known as the first person to use VR with people at ultra-high risk (UHR) of psychosis to explore the relationship between adverse life events and paranoid thinking.

On receiving the award Dr Valmaggia said:

“I am very honoured. It has been a team effort and I thank my colleagues and collaborators, my students, our funders and the service users and carers who I have had the privilege to work with over the years and who taught me so much.”

Dr Valmaggia work has led to a number of competitive grants including a research fellowship and a NARSAD Young Investigator Award. Also the VR Lab is now one of the largest programs of research focused on virtual reality based interventions in mental health in the world, with twelve ongoing studies.  

She played a key role in obtaining funding for the setup of internationally recognised Outreach and Support in South London Service (OASIS). OASIS is a community service for young people at high risk of developing psychosis, and one of the first of its kind in the world. Her research at OASIS to more than 150 scientific publications and a long-term study that proved early intervention led to much better outcomes. 

Dr Valmaggia is also credited with setting up the first early detection service in the world in a UK prison leading to the establishment of the London Early Detection and Prevention in Prison Team (LEAP).

She has been internationally recognised for her expertise and contribution to the research and treatment of psychosis with her election to President of the IEPA-Early Intervention in Mental Health Association and the PROESQ 2017 Medal for contribution to schizophrenia research.

Dr Valmaggia is a reader in clinical psychology and digital mental health at King's College London, UK and leads the virtual reality lab at the NIHR/Wellcome Trust King’s Clinical Research facility.
 

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