Virtual Reality Therapy

Using Virtual Reality to Aid the Therapeutic Experience

It’s no surprise that Virtual Reality is making its way to the mental health field, especially now that tele-therapy is more common and accessible. To better the experience and treatment for our clients, we are now offering Virtual Reality Therapy (VRT).

What is Virtual Reality Therapy (VRT)?

VRT is a completely immersive experience using a computer generated environment that allows the user(s) to interact with a simulation of the real world.

How could VRT benefit clients in therapy?

There are many different reasons a therapist may want to use VRT instead of, or in conjunction with talk therapy. One major reason is the effectiveness VRT has working with anxiety related disorders. Because VR allows the user(s) to customize an environment, the options are limitless. VRT is used most commonly for the following issues:

  • Social Anxiety
  • Phobias
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Depression
  • Panic Disorder
  • Chronic Pain
  • Mindfulness and Relaxation Skills
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

 

Who is eligible to use VRT?

Anyone with access to a smart phone and headset can use this platform at home. If the VR system is used in-office, the VR headset will be provided and the client will not need to have access to any hardware.

What are some results that clients and therapists have seen with the use of VR in their therapy sessions?

Though VR therapy is still an up and coming therapy modality, it has been used with veterans with PTSD for many years. It has been researched and noted that progress is faster and well maintained in comparison to traditional therapies. When VR is used for social anxiety and group therapy, it can have more of a positive influence on social engagement and increased level of comfort in group settings. When VR is used for mindfulness, relaxation and grounding, research shows that many clients were able to achieve their relaxation goals more quickly than without VR supports.

What can I expect in a VR session?

First, the client will meet the VR therapist and complete an intake. At this time, the client is taught the basics of anxiety and provided with skills to help manage and reduce symptoms of anxiety that may increase during a VR session. The client is then able to build a plan with their therapist about their goals and ensure that the plan aligns with the client’s needs. The client can request to stop or pause the session at any time.

How is progress measured with VRT?

It’s a series of questions on clinical assessments used before, during and after VR sessions. The clinical assessment is based on the diagnosis, or challenge areas. Clients will rate their symptoms with their therapist and assess areas of progress and challenge.

Is VRT covered by my insurance?

Depending on your insurance carrier, VRT may be covered as this falls under the category of exposure therapy. It is encouraged that client’s confirm coverage with their insurance provider prior to the initial session. Coverage is not guaranteed.

Who can provide VRT?

Licensed Therapists and Psychologists are the most common practitioners, however, other licensed professionals such as LMFT’s, MD’s and DO’s who are trained in CBT, ERP and/or anxiety related disorders can use VRT. Most VRT providers will have specific training in the treatment of trauma and anxiety disorders and should be trained to assess, diagnose and treat trauma and anxiety disorders.

Things to consider before trying VR:

Some people have experienced adverse side effects from VRT such as disorientation, nausea, dizziness, headache, blurred, headaches, vertigo and seizures. Patients with schizophrenia should not use VR because immersion in a virtual environment can exacerbate delusions.

If you, or your child is interested in VR therapy, please contact us at 732-639-0232 to schedule your appointment with our VR therapist Rebecca Sidoti, LCSW.

 

To learn more about VR, check out these articles on Psychology Today

VR for Anxiety

VR for Pain

 

Links:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/urban-survival/201903/research-finds-virtual-reality-can-help-treat-anxiety

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/media-spotlight/201609/can-virtual-reality-help-pain

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