VR Games are incredible, even in their infancy. They give you a level of immersion that goes beyond anything that a standard television and monitor have and feature exciting controls that allows you to physically control your avatar as you do yourself. As such, the amount of variety and options that game developers have when making a game for VR is unrivaled. Beyond this, many other people are using VR to improve their work. In this post’ I’ll share with you one cool way that VR headsets are being used: Exposure Therapy.
Exciting, I know.
First, let me explain what this is. Exposure Therapy is a method of safely allowing someone with a phobia to become increasingly comfortable in the presence of their trigger. This can be used for phobias, panic attacks, Social Anxiety Disorder, OCD, PTSD, and general anxiety. Therapists currently do this by gradually increasing the amount of exposure the patients get over time. However, it is difficult for patients to want to get therapy in the first place, hence having a real-life stimulus may not be ideal. Instead, using a virtual stimulus could be a great starting point for patients to begin Exposure Therapy.
For example, if you wanted to help someone overcome their overwhelming fear of crowds or talking on stage, you can situate them in a virtual crowd or stage and allow them to spend longer and longer periods of time being there and practicing helpful behaviors, like breathing deeply. In addition, this can allow them to get more and more accustomed to a PTSD trigger like a loud-booming noise (think fireworks) by putting them in situations that they can see in their virtual world. Because they never don’t experience the trigger outside the machine, and they can remove the VR system whenever they want, VR headsets would be an amazing tool to use during Exposure Therapy. Furthermore, they give the therapist an immense amount of control over how powerful the stimulus is (e.g. how busy the crowd is or how loud the fireworks are) to gradually work their way up.
After enough time in the VR headset, the next stage would be encountering the stimulus in real life, and gradually increasing their exposure. Of course, things like crowds or fireworks would be difficult to do without VR in the first place, which is also why VR Exposure Therapy could be so helpful.
Before you ask, yes, Exposure Therapy and the process of gradually accustoming people to their fears works. And it works a lot better than just having people face their fear without a gradual process. So while VR is an amazing upgrade for gaming, it can also provides a major step forward in both the scope and quality of Exposure Therapy. This might provide some hope, at least, for those who have good reason to fear that the VR market will not do so well. My hope is that with the extension into markets beyond just video games, Virtual Reality will become a reality in the future.
What does my Username reference? The answer is much more obvious on a Sunday.