A New Tool for Mental Heatlh Treatment: Virtual Reality

Mental health treatment has come a long way since Sigmund Freud. Newer types of therapy have been developed. With the understanding of brain chemistry came medications which revolutionized mental health treatment. Technology has been at the forefront of these developments. Virtual reality is a creative new technology that has mainly been applied to gaming. Through the use of a set of goggles and a headset, the user can be transported anywhere in the real world, or to fictitious places. Anything a programmer can imagine can be an environment. It’s a way to see the world without traveling, immerse oneself in a gaming environment. It is also being used effectively in the treatment of mental health issues.

Training for Situations

One of the main ways virtual reality is being used in mental health treatment is in creating situations the patient finds distressing or difficult to handle. A nice advantage is that it’s not limited to in-person visits. It can also be used in an online therapy platform. Virtual reality can be used to treat several disorders. For example, a person who is agoraphobic can use VR to experience artificial outdoor spaces. They can start small and gradually be made bigger as the patient becomes more comfortable with them. It can be used the same way for people with social anxiety disorder in creating groups of people in various social settings.

Virtual reality can save both time and money. For situations that are not practical to apply in real life, such as a fear of flying, a realistic simulation can be substituted. The use of VR would seem to be unlimited.

Automation

Virtual reality treatment would be guided by a therapist either in an office setting or using online therapy. Once the patient has gotten a feel for the process, a virtual therapist can be created within the simulation. The counselor would guide the patient through the simulation. This is a huge advantage in that the patient could experience treatment sessions at any time. While regular appointments would still be necessary, these extra sessions could help to accelerate the healing process. VR equipment is becoming more affordable and thus accessible to a greater number of people.

It Is Flexible

VR simulations can be programmed to adapt to a patient’s needs over time. Its flexibility is a great asset. People tend to be less anxious about entering a situation that they know is not real. Moving on to more stressful situations can be much easier than doing it in real life. Elements of fun can be added as well. For example, successfully navigating a VR situation may enable the patient to save a virtual kitten. Adding a gaming aspect can make the treatment fun and rewarding and thus more effective.

Although mental health treatment is more than a century old, these kinds of disorders have long been stigmatized. With a greater understanding of the cause of mental health issues, comes greater acceptance. Treatment has also advanced and technology has given us virtual reality. As time goes on, this new treatment may find a place as a go-to therapy for those with mental health disorders.

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