Swanswell takes virtual therapies to Greater Manchester

19 December 2012

Swanswell’s signed a six-month partnership agreement with Greater Manchester Probation Trust to further develop its innovative virtual therapies programme.

Over the last three years, the national charity has been exploring the use of existing technology to support people through their recovery from substance misuse, in partnership with the University of Reading.

It involved a computer-based game that gives clients in Swanswell’s Structured Day Programmes access to a number of scenes using a virtual reality headset.

Each scene allows the game’s user to make decisions that lead to more events unfolding and lets the user move between scenes including a domestic scene and a bar scene, each with alcohol or drug-related cues.

It aims to help them identify triggers to their alcohol or drug use and develop coping skills that they learn in a safe environment but can apply to real life.

Now, Swanswell’s sharing this innovative use of technology with Greater Manchester Probation Trust (GMPT) to develop a similar product for young males aged 18 to 25 who are at risk of offending.

As with the set up in Swanswell’s Structured Day Programmes, this project will help people identify triggers, which in this case will be for impulsive or angry behaviour and potentially stressful situations.

Alongside this development, Swanswell and GMPT will also look at how to integrate this approach in to the Trust’s work with troubled youngsters.

Chris Robinson, Swanswell’s Director of Services, said: ‘We’re delighted to be working with Greater Manchester Probation Trust and building on what we’ve already achieved with our virtual therapies programme for people affected by substance misuse.

Our computer-based game is designed to be adaptable to many forms of behaviour change, identifying triggers and giving people the skills to develop coping skills in a safe environment that they can use in real life situations.

We’re really excited about this partnership and the opportunities it will bring in the future.’

GMPT is, nationally, one of the biggest providers of ‘accredited’ offender programmes.  The Trust works alongside partners from the public, private and voluntarily sectors to reduce reoffending and each year supervise more than 16,400 offenders who display complex issues underlying their crimes.

Joe Tumelty, Assistant Chief Executive of Greater Manchester Probation Trust, said: ‘Our aim is to protect the public and to help us achieve that goal, we have developed a number of effective ways of working with offenders to change their behaviour.  

Our partnership with Swanswell will further enhance our innovative approaches and help maintain our cutting edge approach to offender management.

The Trust has a priority focus on those offenders aged 18 to 21 and we know that IT can be a powerful tool to engage and inform young people. We’re therefore delighted to be working with Swanswell on such an exciting and innovative product.’

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