Fear of Crowded Places
Virtual Reality Therapy Is Here!
Virtual Reality Therapy is based on a well established form of treatment called systematic desensitization or exposure.
What is unique to Virtual Reality Therapy is the use of the headset to place the individual in a virtual reality version of their fears. Without VR, the 2 standard methods that are used involve visualization (where the patient uses their imagination to recall a place or situation) and in-vivo treatment (where the patient and the therapist go to the actual place).
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Fear of Driving
Fear of Flying
Fear of Heights
VR therapy exposes patients to sources of distress in a carefully controlled and therapeutic manner. This is all done in the presence of the therapist. The intention is to reduce fears to these situations or places through the use of proven anxiety management techniques. A patient is never exposed to anything which they have not been trained to manage. Scientific research shows that a skilled therapist can more effectively treat anxiety, compulsions, addictions, phobias and post-traumatic stress with VR.
Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET) has been shown to be more effective than in-vivo exposure therapy for anxiety disorders across a meta-analysis of 13 studies. (1) Another meta-analysis of 14 clinical trials found that "VRET produces significant behavior change in real-life situations" and is as effective as in-vivo for treating specific phobias.(2)
FYI: A meta-analysis is where the results from a group of related studies are analyzed for an overall treatment effect. See research below.
Read About VR in the NY Times
1) Powers M. B., Emmelkamp P. M. G. (2008). Virtual reality exposure therapy for anxiety disorders: a meta-analysis. J. Anxiety Disord. 22, 561–569. 10.1016/j.janxdis.2007.04.006 [PubMed] [Cross Ref]
2) Morina N., Ijntema H., Meyerbröker K., Emmelkamp P.M. Can virtual reality exposure therapy gains be generalized to real-life? A meta-analysis of studies applying behavioral assessments. Behaviour Research and Therapy. 2015;74:18–24. [PubMed]
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