Fears, Phobias, Mindfulness, Relaxation and Concentration
Virtual Reality (VR) has shown itself to be a valuable addition psychotherapeutic interventions that involve a need to overcome a fear or phobia as well as other uses including mindfulness, relaxation and concentration. The reason is that VR allows you to immerse yourself in carefully controlled conditions which mimic the situation which would in real life generate anxiety. Examples are fear of public speaking, fear of needles or flying. A full list appears below.
Gain confidence in confronting the situation that generates anxiety
In the February 2018 edition of Monitor on Psychology, a publication from the prestigious American Psychology Association (APA), the author Kirsten Weir wrote “Even in the early days of virtual reality, researchers quickly recognized that the technology was a great fit for providing exposure therapy, in which patients are exposed to things they fear in a safe place”. As patients gain confidence in confronting the situation that generates anxiety, the virtual environment can be adjusted to increase (or decrease) the feared situation.
A recent study could show up to 68% improvement
A recent study published in Lancet Psychiatry, 100 adults who had a phobia of heights were split into two groups, one receiving automated VR therapy and the other no specific treatment. The first group showed a 68% improvement while the control group dropped by just 3%.
Virtual environments enable the possibility of manipulating certain characteristics in order to control and adapt the intervention to the patients’ needs. For example, if you have a fear of public speaking, it is possible to vary the audience from a small meeting room to a large auditorium and can even control the audience reactions. Or if you have a fear of spiders, we can show one spider some distance from you, right through to a few spiders close to you.
A non-invasive treatment
VR is both non-invasive and safe. The placement of the headset isolates the external stimuli, transporting the user to the environment in which the anxiety is experienced. The experience is also enhanced by way of using biofeedback equipment, where levels of anxiety can be accurately measured and managed.