DiSCoVR: Social cognition training

People with psychosis or autism, can experience problems in social contact. These are often caused by deficits in social cognition, processes involved in understanding social situations and other people. Impairments in social cognition are important predictors of problems in daily life, such as trouble in relationships and employment. DiSCoVR is an intervention aimed at improving social cognition. By understanding others better, people may become more comfortable and capable in social situations.

The underlying principle of DiSCoVR is that VR is a realistic way to practice with social contact. Participants can try out different ways to react to others without fear of rejection of embarrassment in an environment that highly resembles daily life, from the practitioner’s office. At the same time, the environment can be tailored to the participant, e.g., the difficulty level of the intervention can be altered.

Intervention & Research

DiSCoVR consists of 16 sessions lasting 45-60 minutes. The main emphasis is on practising social situations in VR. The intervention is provided by a psychologist, who coaches and provides feedback. Together, the therapist and the participant choose goals that the participant wishes to work on during the intervention. DiSCoVR has three modules:

  1. Recognizing facial emotions
  2.  Understanding social situations and the actions, thoughts and emotions of others
  3. Applying the above in social situations by practicing with interactions with virtual people

In January of 2018, we initiated a multicenter randomized controlled trial (RCT) on the efficacy of DiSCoVR, comparing it to VRelax. In the RCT, the UMCG and GGZ Drenthe collaborate with GGZ Delfland and Zeeuwse Gronden.


Nijman SA, Veling W, Greaves-Lord K, Vos M, Zandee CER, aan het ROT M, Geraets CNW, Pijnenborg GHM. Dynamic Interactive Social Cognition Training in Virtual Reality (DiSCoVR) for People With a Psychotic Disorder: Single-Group Feasibility and Acceptability Study. JMIR Mental Health. 2020.

Nijman SA, Veling W, Greaves-Lord K, Vermeer R, Vos M, Zandee CER, Zandstra D, Geraets CNW, Pijnenborg GHM. Dynamic Interactive Social Cognition Training in Virtual Reality (DiSCoVR) for social cognition and social functioning in people with a psychotic disorder: Study protocol for a multicenter randomized controlled trial. BMJ Psychiatry. 2019. [link]

Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
GGz Drenthe