Exploring the added value of virtual reality biofeedback game DEEP in forensic psychiatric inpatient care—A qualitative study

Lisa Klein Haneveld*, Hanneke Kip, Yvonne H.A. Bouman, Joanneke Weerdmeester, Hanneke Scholten, Saskia M. Kelders

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background: Low motivation and suboptimal cognitive skills are common among forensic psychiatric patients. By focusing on doing and experiencing, innovative technologies could offer an alternative to existing treatment for this patient group. One promising technology is DEEP, a VR biofeedback game that teaches diaphragmatic breathing, which has shown its potential in reducing stress in other populations. This exploratory study aimed at identifying if, how and for whom DEEP can be of added value in forensic mental healthcare. Methods: This study used a qualitative approach. Six focus groups with 24 healthcare providers and 13 semi-structured interviews with forensic psychiatric inpatients were conducted in two Dutch forensic mental healthcare organizations. All healthcare providers and patients experienced DEEP before participating. The data were coded inductively, using the method of constant comparison. Results: The data revealed six themes with accompanying (sub)codes, including (1) the possible advantages and (2) disadvantages of DEEP, (3) patient characteristics that could make DEEP more or (4) less suitable and beneficial, (5) ways DEEP could be used in current treatment, and (6) conditions that need to be met to successfully implement DEEP in forensic mental healthcare. The results showed that DEEP can offer novel ways to support forensic psychiatric patients in coping with negative emotions by practicing diaphragmatic breathing. Its appealing design might be suitable to motivate a broad range of forensic psychiatric patient groups. However, DEEP cannot be personalized, which might decrease engagement and uptake of DEEP long-term. Regarding its place in current care, DEEP could be structurally integrated in existing treatment programs or used ad hoc when the need arises. Finally, this study showed that both healthcare providers and patients would need practical support and information to use DEEP. Conclusion: With its experience-based and gamified design, DEEP could be useful for forensic mental healthcare. It is recommended that patients and healthcare providers are included in the evaluation and implementation from the start. Besides, a multilevel approach should be used for formulating implementation strategies. If implemented well, DEEP can offer new ways to provide forensic psychiatric patients with coping strategies to better control their anger.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1201485
JournalFrontiers in psychology
Publication statusPublished - 9 Nov 2023


  • DEEP
  • Focus groups
  • Forensic mental healthcare
  • Interviews
  • Virtual Reality (VR)


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