VIRTUAL REALITY EXPOSURE THERAPY
Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET) is based on the exposure principles of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Scientifically validated, this method provides an alternative to exposure by imaginaton or exposure in real life. The VR-Therapy is used to treat multiple mental disorders, anxieties, addictions and eating disorders. VR-therapy centers around the concept of “here and now”-therapy, which means that its is best used to treat urgent matters, as it offers a quick and relevant response to the patients anxieties.
Virtual Reality Services
How VR is used in therapy
Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy is a “brief” form of therapy, centered on the concept of “here and now”. Using the same principles as cognitive behavioral therapy, VRET provides a way to reproduce reality in a virtual world. The patients are put into contact with the phobogenic stimuli, and progressively becomes used to the stimuli due to habituation and thus therapeutic success. VRET also target other psychopathological areas such as addictions and eating disorders. Here the patients are put into environments that targets the treatment of underlying dysfunctional processes that causes cravings, body dysmorphic disorders, unrealistic expectations and cognitive distortions.
On average, VR therapy takes around 8 exposure sessions with session times ranging between 30 and 40 minutes. VRET should be integrated with traditional therapies in order to maximize therapeutic benefits.
VRET therapy is available to children over 4 years old, adolescents, adults and the elderly.
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The C2Care Controller
The C2Care web controller puts the health professional in full charge of all C2Care VR-therapy sessions. The controller allows the practitioner to manage the session safely and in full control.
The controller enables the health professional to choose into what VR-environment the immersion of the patient should take place, and it’s from here he or she works with the gradual change of anxiety provoking stimuli, that eventually makes the patient better overcome her anxieties.
The C2Care controller can be accessed from any device with an internet browser, such as laptops, tablets or cell phones. The controller is intuitive to use, responsive, and gives the practitioner a full overview of the therapy session. Everything that the patients sees in the VR-headset, is show in a mirror in the controller, so the health professional easily and fully may understand the patients reactions to the environments.
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History of VRET
The first tests to confirm a scientific validity of VRET was made in 1992. At the Clark University in Atlanta, researchers were able to prove its efficiency on fear of flying treatment (aviophobia). At the same time as cognitive behavioral therapy was booming, virtual technology continued to grow. As quality constantly was improving, VR was able to be integrated in medical use. This gave birth to a third way of exposure therapty through virtual reality. More and more research was made on the therapeutic benefits of this technology in order to treat anxiety disorders. Later, success was reached in treating specific phobias. Further research and studies were made on post traumatic stress disorders. This was in particular beneficial for Vietnam War Veterans that was treated with this technology.
Today, VRET is used in several pathological fields such as addictions, eating disorders and social anxieties. Becoming more widely used and integrated, the technology is today also moving closer to psychiatric use for treating Schizophrenia, Personality Disorders and Dysthymia.
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Who is VRET for?
Children, adolescents, adults and the elderly can benefit from Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy.
However, restrictions exists for:
– Children under 4 years old because the eye lens is not yet fully formed
– People with epilepsy
– Pregnant women (precautionary measure taken in the absence of concrete medical data)
– Psychotics in the decompensation phase
What are the risks of VRET ?
The only risk associated with the use of virtual reality is cyber-sickness. This term designates a set of illnesses, very close to motion sickness, which can be felt during or after the use of VR. Cybersickness is harmless in the long term and affects only around 10% of people.
Be careful however to clearly distinguish Therapies by Exposure to Virtual Reality and the other uses that can be made with this technology. TERVs should always be practiced in a therapeutic setting
WHAT TRAINING IS NECESSARY TO PRACTICE VRET ?
Therapies by exposure to virtual reality are practiced by different therapists: Psychiatrist, Psychologist, Psychoanalyst. They are also used by other health professionals such as nurses, psychomotricians, sophrologists or even hypnotherapists. The use of virtual reality requires training in order to learn how to proceed with exhibitions. C2Care provides training. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
WHAT PATHOLOGIES CAN BE TREATED BY TERV?
Multiple pathologies can be treated with virtual reality.
– Anxiety disorders: Specific phobias, Social phobia, Agoraphobia, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
– Eating disorders: Anorexia, Bulimia, Hyperphagia (+ Obesity).
– Addictions: alcohol, cigarettes, cocaine, marijuana, gambling, shopping.
Other disorders treatment methods are also supported by virtual reality. These are depression, neurocognitive disorders, Schizophrenia and Autism. Virtual reality is also used in relaxation and for pain management (during treatment or in chronic pain).
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF VRET ?
The advantages of virtual reality are numerous:
– Accessibility: to overcome the difficulties associated with in vivo exposure, virtual reality offers therapists and patients unlimited access to countless environments from the therapist’s office.
– Safety: The environments in which patients are immersed are under the control of the therapist, thus avoiding fortuitous events. In addition, patients will be reassured by this exposure modality. Virtual reality offers a reassuring alternative for the patient and the therapist during certain potentially dangerous exposures such as in the case of amaxophobia management.
– Confidentiality: Exposures can be carried out directly in the therapist’s office.
– Cost Reduction: Some disorders require exposure that can be costly and time consuming. Let’s take the example of aviophobia. In vivo exposure would require exposing the patient to key steps of an airplane trip. This would involve considerable costs.
– Parameters: The use of virtual reality gives access to control of unimaginable functionalities in vivo; changing the weather, increasing or reducing the flow of a crowd, an audience or road traffic, generating turbulence in the airplane or changing the facial expressions of the interlocutors.
– Playful aspect: Virtual reality arouses patients’ curiosity. As highlighted in the studies, VRET are highly appreciated by beneficiaries and maximize engagement in therapy and compliance with care thanks to its playful aspect.