Virtual Reality Therapy for Mental Health

Virtual Reality (VR) is gradually creeping into each facet of our human existence. It was largely popularised as an entertainment tool that’s used to create an immersive experience in the film industry. Then, it went ahead to cause a spectacle in the gambling industry with the advent of VR casinos. It is among the latest advancements that top sites such as are trying to implement to improve their services. Now, people have opened the possibility of exploring its potential as a mental health therapy. The initial results are quite promising, so chances are that you will be using your VR headset for more than you had imagined.

VR therapy is crucial because it can create realistic and immersive environments using interactive dialogue, 3D visuals, and audio. They build the closest thing to an actual experience that can simulate a real-life situation. The best thing about it is that the environment is perfectly safe since there are no real consequences. It is used in the treatment of mental health problems such as:

  • Phobias;
  • Chronic Pain Management;
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder;
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder;
  • Social Anxiety;
  • Depression;
  • Paranoia.

Therapy involves the exposure of the patient to certain situations. However, for it to qualify as treatment, it must involve a qualified therapist. More therapists are taking advanced training on this, so soon they may be available. It can be used singly or in combination with pharmacotherapy. Hence, you must involve a trained consultant to get the best treatment plan.

Pros of Virtual Healing

Virtual Reality therapy for mental health is gaining popularity at a high rate because of its obvious benefits. Many research studies have been done on it, and they show promising results. Hence, it is backed by science and can be trusted to treat specific conditions. Let us dive deep into the pros of this kind of treatment.

1. Greater Convenience & Confidentiality

VR therapy is more convenient because it doesn’t involve in-vivo exposure of the patient. Everything happens in the consultation room between the consultant and the patient. It also consumes less time compared to in-vivo exposure. Some therapists can also organise online therapy, allowing the patients to be treated from the comfort of their homes. 

2. Effectiveness

This therapy has proven to be an effective treatment for specific conditions like chronic pain, PTSD, and anxiety. It allows the therapist to create a safe environment for the patient to face their traumatic memories and lower the intensity of their symptoms. In phobias and anxiety, patients can be gradually exposed to their fears in a virtual environment for them to learn to cope better.

The tech allows the therapists to create a personalised environment for each patient. Mental health patients are usually triggered by different things so it is important to create the closest thing to that experience. For instance, for patients with social anxiety, the friendliness of the crowds can be adjusted gradually as treatment continues. Besides, the same scenario can be repeated severally before moving to the next. This can be done with minimal or no interference from external factors.

3. Patient Compliance

The confidentiality, convenience, and effectiveness of VR therapy results in overall patient compliance. A significant percentage of mental health patients drop out of treatment before completion because of various reasons. The pros of this therapy promotes compliance. The environments are usually well-controlled, so they rarely go beyond what the patient can handle.

Challenges of VR Therapy

VR therapy faces a couple of challenges. Firstly, it requires specialised therapists, headsets, and software. The costs involved can be too high for most patients, which can hinder its usage. Sometimes treatment can be done at home, and this requires solid Internet connectivity, a computer, and basic knowledge of IT in addition to the headset. These costs may be too much for some populations. Nevertheless, the cost of headsets has started dropping, so the price issues may soon be irrelevant.

Secondly, the success of treatment depends on the expertise of the therapist. They must control exposure therapy keenly to avoid re-traumatizing the patient. The number of trained therapists is not high enough, so this could be a challenge. Also, if the session is happening online, the therapists may be unable to help the patient in case of any eventualities. 

Lastly, more research is needed on this to ascertain various aspects of its usage. It will be embraced better with sufficient scientific backing. This will also alleviate any ethical concerns that may be raised.

The use of virtual reality therapy for mental health is growing in popularity because of its effectiveness and convenience. It has significant therapeutic advantages over other therapies and can be used as an alternative or complementary healing. VR healing will become the mainstay treatment for mental health if well executed.


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