VR therapy as
How does VR therapy work?
- Anxiety disorders are most commonly treated through traditional exposure therapy, a type of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), by 're-programming' the brain to neutralize the fear. The patient is exposed to the feared object or situation in a number of hierarchical steps where the intensity increases for each step. During the sessions, the patient is guided by a therapist in order to learn how to control their fear and eventually to be cured from it.
- VR therapy is based on the same treatment strategies used in traditional therapy but instead of exposure to real life objects, such as spiders or heights, the patient can face their fears in a safe and controlled environment with guidance of a therapist.
- The duration of the relaxation sessions is approximately 20 minutes but can be terminated at any time and be repeated indefinitely. It can also be combined with other treatment programs, such as phobias and addictions, as it can help the patient to regulate breathing and heartrate after a VR therapy session.
- In addition to the relaxing environment, the program includes other effects such as an animated chest that shows inhalation and exhalation to guide the breathing pace.
Nutrition and Eating Disorders
- VR allows the patient to construct a typical meal and visualize their nutrition value in real time. The therapist, along with the patient, can then correct and improve the quality of the meals and gradually balance the patient’s food habits by developing personal food schedules.
- The therapist can work with the patient’s dysmorphophobia by letting the patient visualize different silhouettes (that shows what the patient feels like or would want/not want to look like). Working with the real, perceived or desired body image is facilitated by VR as it enables the comparison with an avatar in real time. The therapist can guide the patient towards improvement and simultaneously observe how the patient’s BMI develops over time.
- Through VR, the therapist can follow the patient to a grocery store and explore the patient’s food habits and what the strongest impulses are. The therapist can then direct the patient in choices towards better food habits and in the end of the session, the patient can receive a document containing balanced food menus and a shopping list.
- The environments that are included in the virtual world are re-creations of the triggering places and locations that contribute to consumption of alcohol, narcotics or tobacco. With help from the therapist’s guidance, the patient can learn to identify the environments and locations that are triggering, to ultimately learn to control their impulses.
- In addition, the therapist can work to prevent relapses, by identifying the sources and reasons for the addiction and by customizing the patient’s treatment (psychological or medical).
Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation
- As part of the patient’s rehabilitation program, VR enables playful exercises which the patients can do on their own. The playful and interactive virtual reality also enables the patient to focus their attention on the goal of “playing”, which minimizes the patient’s fear of pain in relation to repetition of movements.