This month we interviewed Marie from Off the Record in Bristol, to find out more about how they are using ProReal; how the project came about and the success its been having.

So, what is ProReal? 

ProReal is an immersive, avatar-based virtual world platform that helps people communicate in a dynamic and visual way. Built using 3D gaming technology, this virtual reality communication tool is independently evidenced to accelerate insight and change. You can read more about the evidence base here.

 A clip from ProReal 

How did this project come about at Off the Record? 

A campaign from our participation project led to a theme around improving access for males, and supporting the right side brain’s role in therapy. We wanted to find a way to practice what happens in session in a safe and playful way using a platform that young people feel is fun and are comfortable with.

Can you explain a little about a ‘trialogue’ approach? 

The trialogue approach is the understanding that in the room during a ProReal session, there is a three person dynamic: the client, the ProReal programme and the therapist. Each works in partnership together to support the young person’s goals of the work planned together. The young person can use the programme to communicate without relying on emotional literacy and this can help the therapist make sense of how the young person’s life is experienced.

What impact has the project had? 

As the programme doesn’t rely on one modality, we have had the exciting opportunity to explore and play as therapists too. This means we can also capture and support a wider range of issues as a team. When delivering low intensity working using this gaming set up we have found that on average 80% of our wait-list are males. We have also found through feedback how and why they have found it useful in comparison to other therapeutic deliveries.

Can you share some highlights from the journey so far? 

I personally think the biggest highlight has been being part of what feels like a social movement, towards improving and encouraging young men to participate in mental health. Seeing more and more males come through the door to appointments week on week, feel safe, vulnerable and even playful about their thoughts and feelings is just one step closer to breaking down the gender-biased stigma that occurs.

Have there been any challenges in getting the project up and running? 

Staffing and training people up – as you have to adapt your technology skills to keep up with the programme and the young people but it is totally worth it!

What would your advice be to other services looking to create something similar? 

Get creative! I think this can just as easily be done with monopoly counters or Minecraft! I think we have some super creative members of staff who can think outside the box, and young voices who aren’t afraid to lead and ask for what they want.

Lastly, where can people find out more information? 

On the ProReal website, or on our website at Off the Record.

A massive thanks to Marie for sharing some of the insights from ProReal, and how participation can impact service design and delivery – enabling young people to get a service they want and need.