Can Virtual Reality Therapy conquer phobia?
You have come across Virtual Reality being used in entertainment, gaming and even education but now the latest that is gaining credence Virtual Reality Therapy.
What is Virtual Reality Therapy?
This is a relatively new form of therapy that puts patients in a virtual world created by VR technology and helps them overcome their phobias. Phobias could include fearing flying, public speaking, spiders, snakes. However, this does not mean that people get programmed into taking unwanted risks. It’s a therapy only used when the phobia is so irrational that it eats into the normal daily routine and prevents the person from functioning optimally. For instance, if a person’s fear of snakes keeps him totally indoors and prevents him from even going out to work or anywhere, then he requires treatment.
What happens is that Virtual Reality Exposure exposes the patient to a virtual environment containing the feared stimulus in place of taking the patient into a real environment or having the patient imagine the stimulus. Depression, pain and anxiety are some of the other areas where this has been used with success.
How does this work?
For instance, if a patient comes on with the goal to overcome a fear, he or she would be exposed via Virtual Reality to the thing feared. Exposure would be gradually increasing over several sessions helping the patient overcome it. The therapist would also spend time in talk therapy before, after, and at times even during the virtual experience. This will process what you've seen in the healthiest way possible.
Pain distraction is another area where this has been used effectively. For example, when burn victims have their daily wound care, being immersed in playing a game helps to majorly decrease the perception of pain.
Virtual Reality Therapy is a little expensive at the moment, however, the cost will come down as they get more popular.