Terms Virtual Reality and Augmented reality as a subset of Information Communication Technology are designated to devices that can render three dimensional environments which are capable of delivering a real time interactive experience. Representing 3D vision in front of user’s eyes and the possibility of a meaningful interaction with the environment resulting in the immersion of user in the virtual word.
Virtual environments can overcome many of the current limitations in behavioral psychology such as high costs of experimentations, high risks of some experiments like high altitudes, etc. Therapist can modify environments and level of stimuli expression and the difficulty of exposure precisely and control them along the therapy session according to personal needs of each patient. All valuable data throughout the session such as patient’s physiological responses on the timeline of session, SUDs, etc. are recorded and represented to the therapist.
Virtual environments can simulate countless situations that could be used for therapeutic purposes such as exposure therapy. Many of the variables in the game can be changed by therapist easily and it can induce a sense of control over the situations to the therapist.
What is exposure therapy?
Exposure therapy is the practice of exposing the patient to the feared stimuli in a systematic manner in order to inhibit responses, learn habituations, removal of conditioned emotional responses, alternate avoidant behaviors and reprocessing of emotions and change of expectations.
Virtual reality can help therapists in many ways. Therapist can evaluate the patient objectively and present a personal hierarchy for the patient and his/her specific needs. By presenting feared stimuli in a controlled manner, therapist can evaluate patient’s objective and subjective responses with the help of physiologic measurements and SUDs (Subjective Units of Discomfort). All this data will be recorded and registered for the therapist and he/she can evaluate the patient, have a better understanding of his/her prognosis and the trajectory of his/her illness.
Benefits of Virtual Reality Therapy
- Little/no risk
- Safe, controlled area
- Realistic scenarios
- Can be done remotely saving time and money
- Improves retention and recall
- Simplifies complex problems/situations
- Suitable for different learning styles
- Innovative and enjoyable
- More confidentiality.
- Adaptable difficulty