Virtual reality therapy has proven to be an effective technique for overcoming all mental health conditions such as stress, depression, anxiety, and phobia.
The VRT patient gets virtual reality therapy through a computer-generated environment and also gets to complete certain tasks that help them improve their mental health conditions.
This technique has proven a medical advantage because it does not involve the use of any painful medical procedures. It can recreate a wide range of events and social interactions.
VRT treatment makes the patient feel relaxed and at ease. The depression, anxiety, stress, and worries that make you feel unease can be treated with VR therapy.
This post includes an explanation of virtual reality therapy, including how it works, whether it is effective, and its future.
1. What Is Virtual Reality Therapy (VRT)?
Virtual reality is a mirror of the real world that is interactive and immersion. The success rate of a digital experience depends on how well the technology can replicate the environment of the real world.
In a study, scientists have found that a virtually created limb can feel like our own. Furthermore, virtual reality can cause psychological and physiological reactions that can be detected by observing the stress hormone and other biological states.
A Ph.D. Poland doctor, Donna Davies explains virtual reality therapy uses a computer-generated environment that is completely different from telepathy. In telepathy, the patients get therapy from a therapist virtually such as Google Meet but in VRT give therapy through a 3-D virtual world, such as a computer game.
An important note to remember is that a professional therapist needs to be involved in VRT to consider it therapy.
A report published by JMIR Serious Games in 2022 has stated that virtual reality therapy helped in pain reduction. Another report has shown that burn sufferers had 35-50% pain reduction when they were exposed to virtual reality therapy.
Virtual reality therapy helps in lowering the level of stress and depression, thus resulting in lowering the level of pain you’re facing.
A voice directs the users to undergo certain exercises like taking deep breaths, performing meditations, and showing certain visual imagery for pain reduction.
Anxiety, depression, stress, and phobias have all been treated successfully with VR treatment.
2. How Does It Work?
VR works by substituting our everyday experiences with digitally generated sensations from an artificial world.
The system has two visual displays, one for each eye that slightly differs from the way we see objects in the real world. It makes the users feel this virtual world more real and immersed.
Our brain takes inputs from both of the eyes to generate visual imagery, whether they are real or imaginary. By adding extra sensory inputs, the virtual world can be made to appear more real.
The most exciting part of virtual reality is the ability of the wearer to interact with the surroundings. We can change the environment around us by moving our head, grabbing something, or shifting our focus.
The amount of physical stimulation we experience through our senses and the sensitivity of the system depend on the amount of immersion.
So, the ability to interact with the real world and the quality & amount of sensory experiences determine how real things seem to us.
3. What Are The Benefits Of Virtual Reality Therapy?
VRT has shown potential as a treatment for various mental health conditions but is still not being widely used. It can also be a way to help those people who normally don’t want to get therapy.
Dunning said that “ Virtual reality therapy can help someone to feel safe when they might not otherwise”.
Following are some benefits you get from virtual reality therapy:
3.1 Virtual reality is best suited for exposure to the patients as it uses panoramic video rather than animated graphics which lets the patients experience a real environment.
3.2 VR can easily set up any situation that results in triggering the mental health conditions of a patient such as speaking in front of a huge crowd might result in social anxiety.
3.3 VRET allows the therapist to create a traumatic situation thoroughly and under the supervision of a safe setting.
3.4 The VRT system is user-friendly and adaptable to the client’s requirements. It is possible to add the finest features like sounds, items and even smells.
3.5 The VR system gives the therapist complete control over everything including managing the environment and the level of exposure.
3.6 A patient who faces difficulty in imagining certain situations gets a lot of benefits from VR therapy. This system has the right software and programs and with a VR therapy headset, the therapy can be conducted at home.
3.7 As all the sessions can be recorded, the therapists can analyze and observe each session of a patient more properly.
Patients have shown a significant amount of satisfaction with virtual reality therapy perhaps because of its ability to control the senses and its effectiveness as therapy.
In the future, VR therapy has an intriguing and effective potential to take the medical world to a different level. Progress with such immersive technology could help to improve the lives of a lot of people.
4. Who Can Benefit From Virtual Reality Therapy?
Dunning believes that VR therapy is an excellent option for people who are into gaming and enjoy immersive experiences.
Further, Dr. Davis added that for someone who is experiencing depression, worries, anxiety, a phobia, or PTSD, virtual reality therapy might help them.
The following are the common ailments that VRT can help to treat:
- Anxiety, both social and public speaking anxiety
- Pain management
- Eating Disorder
- Substance use disorder
If you have other issues like migrations, motion sickness, or have a history of seizures then it’s better to not get VRT treatment. Also, there are certain situations VR therapy or VRET treatment might not result to be that effective, such as severe depression or bipolar illness that are better treated with proper medications.
5. What Is The Future Of Virtual Reality Therapy?
The future of virtual reality theory has fascinated Dr. Davis and Dunning. Dr. Davis also said that he predicts that the future will be spectacular as technology improves and will become more inexpensive and accessible to the world. Dunning supports this and also adds that VRT platforms will become more accessible and their use will increase.
If you are experiencing depression, stress, or anxiety, need some help to overcome your phobias, and are also interested in tech and innovation then VRT could be beneficial for you.
Dr. Davis also said that the patients should look for some good clinical offices in their city and also find out if the doctors have VRT training. It is important to find out who is leading the therapy sessions before getting it.
The therapist’s identities should not be anonymous and you must do some study on them to make sure that they are well-trained and capable of doing VR therapy.
The VR therapy costs depend on the providers, type of health insurance, and whether a piece of equipment needs to be purchased or not such as a headset to use at home.
Certain VRTs are more expensive than normal therapies. But fortunately, the cost of VRT software is falling and making this type of therapy more affordable.
VR therapy is a new concept so there is not that much info about how many people are using it currently but many healthcare providers and clinics are getting the training in this field. As a result, it is becoming more accessible to the people.
6. Is There Any Risk of Having Virtual Reality Therapy?
There are various downsides of VR therapy along with its numerous benefits.
With technological advancement, the virtual aspects may become more accessible but before using it at home needs computer access, an internet connection, and smart devices like headsets which might not generally be available to certain people in remote regions.
Other people who are not that knowledgeable about the technology might find it difficult to use.
Additionally, virtual reality therapy is quite new, and finding a professional in this field might be quite challenging.
Dr. Davis said that like any other therapy, the success of the VR therapy treatment depends on the therapists.
Stimulations that feel extremely lively, especially with the VRET featuring realistic scenarios might result in retraumatizing for someone if they are not supervised by a well-trained therapist.
As this treatment becomes more commonly offered with the technology advancement, there will be very certainly a rise in ethical issues.
7. Bottom Line
Traditional forms of therapies such as yoga, meditation, hypnosis, and psychotherapy are commonly used around the world. Virtual reality therapy is a new immersive form of therapy that therapists around the world are using to treat people.
The main focus of VR therapy is to help overcome the difficulties caused by mental health problems. Isn’t it a very interesting way to get therapies? Also what are your thoughts on virtual reality therapy?