One in four of us will experience mental health problems at some point in our lives. While we are still a long way from being able to provide timely mental health treatment to all who need it, VR-based therapy, an innovative new treatment, is a promising new approach.
What is VR therapy?
The therapy made possible by VR is the use of virtual reality technology for psychological therapy. Patients navigate through digitally created environments and complete tasks specially designed to treat a specific ailment. The therapy made possible by VR is providing better results.
VR-enabled therapy is a proven way to achieve rapid and lasting improvements in mental health. Multiple clinical trials show how the results are at least as good, if not better than face-to-face therapy.
One of these VR therapy treatments for clinically diagnosed fear of altitudes has been shown to be successful in reducing patients’ fears by an average of almost 70%, demonstrating its enormous potential to address a variety of other mental health problems.
VR has an extraordinary ability to create powerful simulations of the scenarios in which psychological difficulties occur. With VR therapy, it is not necessary for a therapist to accompany a client on a trip to a crowded mall, for example, or even a tall building. Results are also better than expected with the best psychological intervention delivered face-to-face with a therapist.
Ability to deliver high quality treatment at scale
Many people remain untreated due to a shortage of qualified doctors, long waiting lists and stigma. Because VR-based therapy is automated and the therapist is integrated into the program, as an avatar, it allows evidence-based treatment to be delivered more quickly than traditional therapy and can facilitate a large increase in the number of patients who can be treated.
Provides a better MH experience for patients
Studies indicate that 20-30% of people drop out of treatment and will therefore continue to struggle with the same mental health problem and may even get worse. VR therapy is offering a superior patient experience. Ludification has the potential to increase the impact of mental health interventions.
The environments and activities of VR are so compelling and engaging that both data and patient testimonials show that users find the therapy easy to use and even fun.
Mental health problems cost billions a year, when treatment, social support costs and economic losses of people who cannot work are taken into account. Mental health services cannot cope with demand due to increased demand, labour shortages and funding problems.
Responds to increasing patient expectations
As with training, VR makes therapy fun. Patients find it easier to perform therapy in the virtual world, and enjoy using VR applications. Patients say it’s an incredible experience. But the beauty of virtual reality therapy is that the benefits are transferred to the real world. Younger patients are also very willing to use VR. During clinical studies, most subjects found that VR was a pleasant and positive experience, distracting them from their anxiety and distress.
Virtual Reality May Be Next Big Thing for Mental Health
Technology has great potential for understanding the workings of the human brain. Experts used to worry that virtual reality (VR) would damage our brains. These days, however, VR seems more likely to help our gray matter.
A new wave of psychological research is pioneering VR to diagnose and treat medical conditions ranging from social anxiety to chronic pain and Alzheimer’s disease. Many of these solutions are still in the laboratory testing phase, but some are already reaching hospitals and therapists’ offices.
This use of VR to test and adjust the brain is still very new. And with the excitement surrounding VR entertainment and games unleashed since its peak in 2017, it’s reasonable to wonder if VR therapy is the real business or if it’s another bubble. However, the evidence so far is strongly in favor, with recent research suggesting that psychology-driven VR will live up to expectations.
VR therapy: already tested and verified
With a wave of interest in mental health technology, companies creating VR content for therapeutic outcomes are receiving an avalanche of care and funding. And while VR has been successfully used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) since the 1990s, these new programs address a much broader range of conditions.
The current content of VR is designed primarily to support exposure therapy, a treatment for anxiety disorders in which patients are exposed to anxiety inducing stimuli in a safe and controlled environment, and finally learn that the “threats” that concern them are not really very dangerous.
Previously, and still today, exposure occurs primarily in carefully controlled real-world settings. However, VR allows therapists to create a safe, controlled environment within VR headphones. It is a much safer, faster and cheaper option.