Although most of you know virtual reality only from video games, this high technology has other essential uses. In fact, one of the different applications of this device is to assist in the treatment of mental health problems.
According to research conducted in 2015, in every five adults, one of them experiences mental health issues. This shows that most people are affected; however, they do not seek mental health treatment. Professionals to help people develop coping strategies, as well as treat addiction, are now using virtual reality.
How is Virtual Reality Therapy used?
- Exposure Therapy: The main application of the virtual reality for mental health treatment is exposure therapy. The first person to experiment this was Professor Albert Rizzo who used this technology to treat soldiers from war zones.
The patient is exposed to situations that trigger rational response for example exposure to height or battle zones. The good thing is that the stimuli can be controlled meaning that the patient is safe. The professor used the VR headset to trigger his patient by exposing them to traumatic experiences. This method is believed to be more effective when compared to other types of therapy like conventional exposure therapy. The mental health professionals also gain a better understanding of psychological disorders.
- Assessment: The virtual reality helps in assessing the patient. The doctor can determine the patient more closely and accurately using virtual technology. Instead of allowing the patient to talk about his or her fears, the doctor will use this technology to access the phobia more carefully. It also helps to reveal more detailed symptoms that the patient may not be aware of, which is something to be considered by each virtual reality company.
- Stress Management: Mental health patients are highly advised to relax to improve their moods. Virtual reality technology offers reality relation as well as mediation experiences. More apps have been developed to provide different relaxation environments, which the patient can enjoy while being guided by the physician. The guided meditation can be incorporated into therapy for the patient.
- Cognitive Behaviour Therapy: This is the type of therapy where the doctor helps the patient change negative thoughts to positive thinking. It also helps the patient to adjust to challenging situations. Doctors are now combining cognitive behaviour therapy with virtual reality so that it can be more effective. Research shows that when both are connected, they become more effective than when CBT is used alone.
The main problem with this therapy is that it is quite costly and most people cannot afford. Additional research is being conducted because virtual reality is believed to change mental health therapy. More funding and therapist are needed to make this technology work. But the benefits could be extraordinary. This could be the next technology to change the mental health issues.