February 26, 2021 11:18 AM

Virtual Reality at the service of Therapy and Stress Treatments

Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET) is essentially a step-by-step immersion process. This innovative technique is capable of treating numerous disorders, whether obsessive-compulsive or generalized anxiety disorders. In fact, more than 1,000 healthcare professionals in France, Belgium and Switzerland use Virtual Reality to treat their patients.

/ Published 3 weeks ago

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If Virtual Reality (VR) has been used successfully in a number of different fields such as simulation, engineering, teaching or video games, it is now contributing to a new sector: medicine. More specifically Virtual Reality is entering the fields of psychology and therapy as a tool for new stress treatments. Indeed, more than 1,000 health professionals in France, Belgium and Switzerland are using Virtual Reality to help their patients deal with their phobias and addictions. The principle is simple: help the patient incrementally confront the source of their addiction or fear.

In any cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), there is a phase where the person must confront his fear or temptation. Yet it is somewhat brutal, and potentially dangerous, to do so in real life: comforting a person who is afraid of dogs with a real dog may backfire spectacularly! Favored by the military for treating post-traumatic stress disorder, the use of virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) has proven to be a surprisingly practical alternative for treating phobias and addictions as well. It acts in the same way as CBT without having to expose oneself to real anxiety-provoking places or situations.

How can Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy work against fears and addictions?

Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET) is essentially a step-by-step immersion process. This innovative technique is capable of treating numerous disorders, including obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). The idea is to make the patient feel his or her presence in a virtual environment (which does not actually need to exist) and provoke the same emotions in him or her, and then control them using classic CBT techniques such as emotion management or relaxation.

Similarly, VRET can be a very effective tool for fighting addictions of all kinds: cigarettes, alcohol, heroin and cocaine… The principle remains the same, since the patient is exposed to virtual environments of temptations (nightclubbing, coffee breaks, rave parties…). In case of a moment of weakness, VR interacts with the user and can even give him some echo of what he is looking for: a virtual cigarette for example.

Gradual and beneficial therapy at all levels

The virtual situations offered by VRET processing are essentially gradual. In order to avoid rushing the patient suffering from mental imbalance, psychotherapeutic treatment by exposure to VR requires a personalized approach. This allows the doctor to understand the person’s reactions, to act and to define the next steps accordingly. The virtual experience can be repeated several times: as many times as the mental health of the said patient requires, each time perhaps making incremental but significant progress. VR also allows the therapist to easily monitor the session, through a questionnaire, observing behavior, or measuring heart rate and skin responses.

In addition, VRT has several time and money saving benefits. While sessions take place in the therapist’s office, conventional CBTs – especially those with a high-cost exposure component – are generally more expensive and more difficult to arrange. VR is therefore revolutionizing psychotherapy by giving it unlimited possibilities, which might previously have been impossible or prohibitively expensive in terms of time or money.

XRApplied puts Virtual Reality at the service of health care

It is not by chance that psychologists, psychiatrists and psychotherapists turn to VR for their therapeutic sessions. The diversity of disorders, phobias and addictions poses challenges well suited to the use of the latest technology for better understanding and treatment. Start-up companies, such as XRApplied, offer countless opportunities for VR and wellness enthusiasts alike. Innovative, customized solutions for all areas, including health.

XRApplied has a very broad field activity and is heavily in tune with the VR era in various sectors. The company is at the service of all small and medium enterprises and can even adapt to the needs of healthcare professionals. Immersion techniques are promising in all areas, but require the sorts of personalized VR solutions that require specialists like XRApplied. VR is a science that is only at the beginning of its ascent and companies like XRApplied are riding the wave well.

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(Image presented by Areous Ahmad via Pexels)

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