Although individuals using VR are conscious of their experience not being real, the physical and psychological responses induced by it are similar to those experienced in real life scenarios.
Using VR in mental health treatment opens up possibilities of working through responses to problematic stimulus without having to face them in a real life. There is an obvious, practical benefit to it; for example, creating a flight simulation for an individual struggling with phobia of flying is a much easier solution that arranging an actual flight.
Additionally, it allows the therapist to work not only based on the patient’s account but to actually observe their responses. Both therapist and the patient have a control over the stimuli making the treatment potentially safer both physically and psychologically.
‘VR has the potential to transform the assessment, understanding and treatment of mental health problems’ (Freeman, et al., p. 2392). It has been used for assessment and treatment of phobias, anxiety, PTSD, addiction, paranoia, eating disorders and autism. For example, a VR app created at Tulane School of Social Work prevents drug and alcohol relapse in patients ‘by practicing self-control and awareness skills in realistic simulations where drugs and alcohol are present’ (Leatham, 2018, para.13).
Gareth Norris and Rachel Rahman from the Psychology department at Aberystwyth University in collaboration with colleagues in Computer Science have recently done a pilot research project using VR to look at its potential for reminiscing in older adults.
The E-learning Group has acquired virtual reality (VR) headsets and camera for staff to use in teaching and research. You can create immersive learning environments or use already existing VR materials. Book the VR headsets and camera from the library loan stock.
Farnsworth, B. (2018, May 1). The Future of Therapy – VR and Biometrics. Retrieved from https://imotions.com/blog/vr-therapy-future-biometrics/
Freeman, D. & Freeman, J. (2017, March 22). Why virtual reality could be a mental health gamechanger. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2017/mar/22/why-virtual-reality-could-be-a-mental-health-gamechanger
Freeman, D., Reeve. S., Robinson, A., Ehlers, A., Clark, D., Spanlang, B. & Slater, M. (2017). Virtual reality in the assessment, understanding, and treatment of mental health disorders. Psychological Medicine, 47 (2393-2400).
Leatham, J. (2018, June 22). How VR is helping Children with Autism Navigate the World around Them. Retrieved from https://www.vrfitnessinsider.com/how-vr-is-helping-children-with-autism-navigate-the-world-around-them/