Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy for Anxiety
How does it work?
Researchers suggest that VRET offers patients an engaging and immersive experience within a virtual world, where mental health professionals have complete control over exposure to the simulated environment. This level of control allows for tailored manipulation of scenarios that are catering to the individual’s needs during therapy sessions. VRET provides a secure and novel way to treat mental health conditions, where patients can benefit from a therapeutic experience without being exposed to experiential trauma.
Effectiveness of VRET
In a study published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders, researchers used VRET to treat individuals with a fear of flying. Participants underwent six sessions of VRET, involved virtual flights of increasing duration and complexity. Results showed a significant decrease in anxiety levels, with 93% of participants reporting an improvement in their fear of flying.
In another study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, researchers used VRET to treat individuals with social anxiety disorder. Participants underwent six sessions of VRET, which involved virtual social interactions of increasing complexity. Results showed a significant decrease in anxiety levels, with 87% of participants reporting an improvement in their social anxiety symptoms.
Steps Involved In VRET
The therapist conducts an assessment to understand the patient’s anxiety triggers and severity of symptoms.
Virtual environment creation
The therapist or a virtual reality programmer creates a virtual environment that simulates the patient’s anxiety triggers. The virtual environment can be tailored to the patient’s needs, such as specific situations or scenarios that trigger their anxiety.
The patient wears a virtual reality headset and enters the simulated environment. The therapist controls the environment and gradually exposes the patient to anxiety-provoking situations, starting with mild triggers and gradually increasing the difficulty level.
As the patient is exposed to anxiety-provoking situations, the therapist teaches them coping strategies to manage their anxiety. This can include relaxation techniques, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and mindfulness exercises.
The therapist reinforces positive progress and encourages the patient to continue practicing coping strategies in the virtual environment and real-life situations.
In summary, virtual reality therapy (VRET) has been demonstrated to be a novel, effective form of treatment for different types of anxiety disorders. The secure and monitored setting provided by VRET enables patients to face their fears and acquire coping mechanisms, resulting in notable symptom improvements. You can read more about VRET here.
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