One of the problems that mental health professionals typically face is the lack of tools available to them. In many cases, they are limited to conversation, the application of techniques or assessments. Fortunately, more and more tools are appearing to help both therapist and patient.
We live in a constantly changing environment and the industrial revolution has brought us new technologies that facilitate the work of psychologists, Carry out more effective treatments, thus retaining their patients and bringing added value to their consultations.
One of the most disruptive tools in the health sector is virtual reality. Did you know that more and more psychologists are starting to apply virtual reality (VR) in their therapies?
What is virtual reality and how to use it in therapy
But … what exactly is virtual reality? It is a computer-generated environment thanks to 3D graphics, fully immersive, interactive, safe, non-invasive and which generates a sense of presence.
In the field of health, there are the Psious platform designed by and for psychologists. This company works with a VR kit: glasses, a smartphone, a computer with which the therapist configures the variables and a biofeedback sensor to monitor the physiological response of the patient.
With this kit, you can reproduce the stimuli parameters you deem relevant and modify the variables according to the patient’s needs: add more or fewer people, control what virtual people are doing around you, the weather, and more. again.
You can also repeat as many times as you want certain events (for example, takeoff or landing of the plane) and configure exposure hierarchies, intervention steps … All without leaving consultation.
In addition, it is a technology with more than 20 years of scientific studies on the back. The first publication on virtual reality in the psychological field was made in 1985.
Psious is currently used in renowned centers such as Vall d’Hebron Hospital, St Joan de Déu Hospital, Clínic Hospital and Stanford University, among others.
Benefits of virtual reality in mental health
The advantages of this type of technology are numerous, especially the one designed by Psious. Among the most relevant are the following.
1. More effective than in vivo therapy
the patient you don’t need to go through the whole process of physical exposure, which also saves time and money. Avoid traveling by plane, metro, going up a skyscraper …
2. Facilitates self-training and over-learning
The user no longer expects events to unfold in real life, they can now play as many times as they want, as many times as needed and as needed. The person to be treated has an active and participatory role, Thus encouraging relearning and behavior modification.
3. The psychologist has full control over the parameters
You can control the duration of therapy, weather, time of day, number of people, interactions with people or animals, etc. In Eating Disorder Scenes, you can now choose which menu the user eats, or the Fear of Flying menu at the Turbulence level.
4. No imagination skills required
Virtual reality it does not require great imaginative capacities which are usually required in exposure therapy.
5. Personalized treatment
With virtual reality, it is possible to adapt the scene to the needs of each patient thanks to the variable configuration and the control panel. outraged the therapist sees at all times what the patient is seeing, Thus facilitating the detection of the most relevant stimuli.
You can also design custom display hierarchies, graduating each step in detail.
6. Repeat any step of the process at any time
The patient can repeat the scenes as many times as needed. For example, getting in an elevator, drawing blood, taking an exam, or chatting in a bar.
7. Ensures user privacy and security
If the patient feels uncomfortable at any time, it’s as easy as taking off your glasses to bring you back to a safe place. Additionally, all Psious environments include the ability to use instant relaxation and mindfulness sessions.
This method is much easier to get patients into any situation that makes them anxious or scared without leaving your desk, thus saving time and money on travel or purchasing transportation tickets like the plane.
9. Patient monitoring and automatic notification
You can record the details of each session, monitor the patient’s physiological response using biofeedback sensors and see the evolution in the graphs.
10. Faster processing
According to several studies, this treatment it’s more efficient and immersive, thus decreasing the rate of patients leaving the office.
Are there any risks to consider?
It is a very safe tool. Only 0.025% of people may experience seizures, nausea, or disorientation. Also, these types of side effects are more common in epilepsy patients, so they should not use this tool or if they do, they should be aware of the risk involved.
To minimize these risks, Psious controlled the use of flashing lights when designing the environments.
Therapies and techniques to use
On top of all the benefits we’ve seen, the good thing about VR is the multitude of cases in which it can be used. More precisely, Psious offers the possibility of working on various disorders (anxiety, specific phobias, eating disorders, PTSD, OCD, ADHD, etc.), as well as being able to be used to perform Mindfulness sessions, EMDR, relaxation techniques or pain distraction.
Most importantly, it can be used as a prelude to the diagnosis of mental disorders. The Emory University of Atlanta and the Alzheimer Society of the United Kingdom have conducted studies which show that it is used to diagnose PTSD and Alzheimer’s disease, but there are also other publications that have shown results. positive for ADHD, anxiety, brain trauma or dizziness.
To find out more, download the digital book
This electronic document goes deeper into …
- Virtual reality i how to use it in clinical psychology.
- The positive and negative points of its use.
- How a dynamic intervention takes place in a session.
- Advice according to the technique used: Exposure therapy, Systematic desensitization, Activation control techniques, Cognitive restructuring, Mindfulness.
- What to answer to the patient when asked …
- Bibliography of interest.
- Gutiérrez, J (2002): Applications of virtual reality in clinical psychology.
- Psychiatry Medical Classroom, 4 (2), 92-126.
- Laura Louchska et al. (2018): Can You Do It ?!: Feasibility of Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy in the Treatment of PTSD Due to Military Sexual Trauma.
- The Guardian (2018): virtual reality to help detect early risk of Alzheimer’s disease