The 6 Benefits of Virtual Reality Therapy

The techniques and strategies used in psychotherapy to help patients have evolved considerably. over the decades.

Part of this phenomenon is due to scientific research carried out during this period, which highlighted the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of different ways of treating patients; but it is also simply due to the fact that the development of new technologies made it possible to create therapeutic resources inconceivable until recently.

The case of virtual reality used in psychotherapy is an example.: Currently, it is possible to use IT to generate therapeutic “training environments” that do not exist in the real world, but only in the digital world. Here we will see what are the main advantages of this form of psychological intervention.

    What is virtual reality?

    Virtual reality is a technological resource developed to generate real-looking digital environments, And can be used with a wide variety of uses. For example, it is used in both leisure products and video games, such as in training programs, or in this case, psychological therapy, among other modes of use.

    Therefore, virtual reality makes it possible to exploit the potential of new technologies to design fictitious but very realistic places, Without the restrictions imposed by economics (i.e. without the need to build these environments with physical material) and by the laws of nature. It follows that thanks to virtual reality it is possible to generate events, objects and beings that cannot occur in the real world; but, in many cases, we are looking for exactly the opposite, to develop situations very similar to what could happen to us on the current planet Earth.

    On the other hand, virtual reality is often associated with complementary materials that facilitate immersion are these fictional worlds, the most popular being virtual reality glasses. These serve to keep the entire field of vision of the person using this technology occupied with what is happening in this artificially designed scenario, so that they forget about stimuli that belong to the real world.

    What are the benefits of virtual reality applied to psychotherapy?

    As we have seen, virtual reality is not a technology created by itself to help solve problems of psychological problems; but precisely because it is highly adaptable and is not limited to one type of goal, it forms the basis from which resources for psychotherapy are developed.

    This is why virtual reality is used to develop tools designed to treat patients, especially when it comes to managing emotions and dealing with anxiety issues. In such cases, three-dimensional and very realistic virtual environments are designed through which the user can move and interact with the elements, whether they are stimuli that trigger phobic reactions, work-related situations that produce stress, places that induce a state of relaxation. , etc.

    Below you can see a summary of the main benefits it offers in the field of psychotherapy.

    1. It adapts to different types of psychological problems

    Virtual reality being a highly adaptable digital environment in terms of leisure and programming, its use should not be limited to the treatment of very specific psychopathologies. With relatively little effort, resources can be created for a wide variety of issues, And even recycle some of the material for many types of patients.

      2. It allows you to create not only environments, but also complete situations

      Virtual reality it is not limited to generating environments understood as static places that exist within a software: they also include events, sequences of actions performed by the man-made entities of these sites (for example, the flight equipment of an aircraft) or which are triggered when the user performs certain actions.

      3. It offers more privacy than a live exhibition

      How virtual reality can be used without leaving a room, it offers more privacy than other intervention methods in which it is necessary to go to places where the real stimulus is located before which the patient must learn to manage his emotions, and which in many cases usually consist of public spaces in plain sight.

      4. Gives much greater control over variables

      In procedures based on exposure to real environments, it is impossible to control everything. However, in virtual reality it is very easy to control relevant variables such as climate, light, noise, size of the stimulus to be exposed, etc.

      5. Allows you to create a difficulty scale

      This is one of the advantages of VR-based therapy which is associated with the previous point, namely the control of variables. Thanks to the fact that everything in this environment can be adjusted to a specific goal, it is very easy to generate situations adapted to the user’s degree of progress, So that at all times he is confronted with activities which pose a challenge but which do not exceed his capacities or cause him to become discouraged and throw in the towel.

      6. It is associated with lower cost

      Compared to the use of elements from real world environments, virtual reality involves less costs: no need to travel, no need for co-therapists to help, no need to buy or rent physical items specific for this intervention, etc.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Maples-Keller, JL; Bunnell, BE; Kim, SJ; Rothbaum, BO (2018). The use of virtual reality technology in the treatment of anxiety and other psychiatric disorders. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 25 (3): 103-113.
      • North. MM; North, SM; Coble, JR (1997). Virtual reality therapy: an effective treatment for psychological disorders. Health Technology and Computer Studies, 44: pages 59-70.
      • Park, MJ; Kim, DJ; Lee, U. Na, EJ; Jeon, HJ (2019). An Overview of the Virtual Reality (VR) Literature in the Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders: Recent Advances and Limitations, Frontiers in Psychiatry, 10: 505.

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