A Virtual Agent for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Treatment

Research output: ThesisDissertation (TU Delft)

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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder with a high impact on quality of life, and despite the existence of treatment, barriers still stop many people from receiving the care they need. An e-mental health system for home use might remove some of these barriers, as it provides a privacy-sensitive and accessible way of following therapy. Treatment for PTSD is difficult though, requiring patients to actively recollect their traumatic memories. Suitable assistance by a virtual agent to increase compliance might therefore be very valuable. Given the novelty of the application of a virtual agent to PTSD therapy, our work studies how a virtual agent should act to best increase therapy compliance for PTSD. After establishing several general design for such an agent, core functions and constraints for the agent have been studied. To enhance treatment compliance in the form of memory recollection, a virtual agent can best present psychoeducation in written text. Furthermore, it can employ an ontology-based question system to elicit more detailed memory recollection, and a motivational feedback system to generate motivation suitable to the patient’s situation. Regarding the constraints of a virtual agent, theoretical models have been presented describing how to deal with risk situations, and a full therapy system for PTSD incorporating the agent was found useful and usable by former patients. Taken together, these findings show how a virtual agent should act and how it can be applied. Given the high impact PTSD has on a person’s life, such a virtual agent has the potential to make a real difference.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Delft University of Technology
  • Neerincx, M.A., Supervisor
  • Brinkman, W.P., Advisor
Award date25 Jan 2018
Print ISBNs978-94-6295-829-6
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • HCI
  • PTSD
  • Virtual agent
  • Conversational agent
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Therapy system
  • E-Health
  • e-mental health
  • e-Coaching

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