Virtual Reality and Psychotherapy

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CC0, Sebastian Voortman, 2016

As virtual reality has been an ongoing topic in our class, I wanted to see if there were any projects using the technology in the field of psychology. Turns out there is something called virtual reality exposure therapy, where the user (client) is guided by a therapist to conquer fears such as acrophobia (the fear of heights.) These experiences help the user to go through events related to their phobia or disorder, such as walking on a high bridge. The therapist measures the user’s physiological responses as well as monitors their self-reported anxiety levels.

Each stage can be repeated until the user feels comfortable with that stage and satisfied with the results. Virtual reality exposure therapy has proven to be so effective that it is now one of the primary treatments for PTSD and addiction rehabilitation. -Carbon Culture Review

The Virtual Reality Medical Center in California helps clients through various anxiety disorders and phobias such as claustrophobia, fear of public speaking, flying, driving, etc. According to their site,”The client wears a head-mounted display with small TV monitors and stereo earphones to receive both visual and auditory cues.” The client and therapist work together to create a hierarchy of anxiety-inducing events where they are careful and control the stages.

Virtual reality has also been spreading to the world Art Therapy as a form of digital expressive therapy. Books have been written on the integration of technology and art expression/healing, and an app has been released called ArtBoard CardBoard that enables users with  quadriplegic paralysis, neurodegenerative diseases, and amputations “to create art with the motion of their heads.”