16 Jun 2016

Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy

What is Virtual Reality Therapy?

Virtual reality therapy (VR) offers a new human-computer paradigm in which users are no longer simple external observers of images on a computer screen but are active participants within a computer-generated-three-dimensional virtual world. Virtual environments differ from traditional displays in that the user experiences a sense of presence or immersion in the virtual environment. The sense of immersion is achieved by an integration of real-time computer graphics, body tracking devices, visual displays, spatial audio and possibly other sensory input. The user is presented with a computer- generated visual world that changes in a natural way with head and body motion. The most common approach in virtual reality exposure therapy to create a visual environment is to outfit the user with a head mounted display(HMD) including a head tracking device that provides head orientation and/or location orientation information to a computer that renders visual images on the display screen of the HMD consistent with the direction in which the user is looking the virtual environment.

Advantages of Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET)

Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy has the advantage of conducting time-consuming exposure therapy without leaving the therapist’s office, with more control over exposure stimuli and less exposure of the patient to possible harm or embarrassment.

Thus, it may offer a time and cost effective manner to conduct exposure therapy, with implications for the treatment of many disorders especially anxiety disorders.

For example, fear of flight exposure therapy involves considerable expense in terms of therapist’s time to accompany the client to an airport for exposure, in addition to the cost of buying tickets for actual flights for the client and therapist plus the logistical part in order to have the patient in a safe environment.

Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy, can be used for treatment of numerous disorders, most notably the anxiety disorders, specifically- panic disorder, agoraphobia, post-traumatic stress disordes(PTSD), obsessive compulsive disorder, as well as specific phobias.

Fear of flying Phobia- Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy

Part of what it means to have a phobia is that the person avoids what they are scared of or endures it with a great deal of anxiety. For the treatment to be effective, they need to become more confortable with that. The best way to do that is to help the patient be exposed to airplane and flying in a gradual way, helping them confront with what it feels like, in a therapeutic manner, which research has shown to be very effective.

Using Virtual Reality Therapy, the patient will go through all the steps of flying, but slowly, moving in baby steps.

The system is comprised of a head mounted display and position sensor, software for applications to phobic disorder that allows the patient/user to be immersed in a computer generated virtual airplane. The patient/user is seated in an airplane seat and can view the majority of a typical commercial airline passenger cabin. Looking out of the window, the patient/user can see the various scenes appropriate to different stages of flight.  He can also hear the common sounds of a commercial airline flight including the flight attendant’s introduction, engine sounds and outside weather conditions.

Moving step by step, the patient will be allowed in virtual reality exposure therapy to stay at each step as long as he needs until the level of anxiety lowers and he is comfortable with the next step.

Every session of Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy lasts between 45-50 minutes. Depending on the level of anxiety, the necessary sessions could be between 8-10.

For more details you can access www.idtherapy.eu/individual-psychotherapy/virtual-therapies

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