Virtual Reality Therapy

What is Virtual Reality (VR) Therapy?

Virtual Reality Therapy uses technology to allow you to engage in the ‘exposure therapy’ elements of your psychological therapy whilst remaining within the clinic. VR can also be used to learn and practice specific skills within therapy. VRT utilises headsets as well as other sounds and stimuli are used to create scenes to reflect ‘real life’ settings. What you see or hear in VR is hardly indistinguishable from reality. The perception is created by surrounding clients with images, sounds or other stimuli to closely resemble ‘real life’ settings.

There are several advantages to the use of VR within therapy including:

  • Potential to increase therapeutic processes as the key use of exposure therapy can be included earlier in treatment
  • Ability to engage in exposure therapy without leaving the therapy office, hence allowing for greater privacy
  • Sessions can be customized to the clients specific fears
  • Biofeedback can be used to adjust the settings accordingly

Research and scientific papers on the validation of virtual reality in psychological therapy have grown exponentially, and there is now 30 years of scientific studies supporting the use of this technology when treating multiple disorders.

What does VR treat?

VR can be used alongside traditional CBT to treat a wide range of conditions. At Anxiety House Sunshine Coast we are predominantly using VR for the psychological treatment of Specific Phobias (flying, heights, needles, dark, claustrophobia etc) and OCD.

FAQs about Virtual Reality (VR)

  • More than a decade of controlled studies has shown the effectiveness and efficiency of VR-based therapies in treating mental disorders, especially anxiety and specific phobias. Its level of clinical effectiveness is higher than the traditional imagination exposure technique. It is also as effective as in vivo exposure. However, using VR therapy does not mean completely forgoing other treatment approaches. Quite the contrary. Both VR technology and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can enhance the effects of standard treatment.

  • Yes and no. On one hand, like video games, VR finds stronger appeal in people who engage their imagination to the furthest extent possible during sessions. Using your imagination can help foster a sense of immersion. VR has been shown to work well with children for just this reason. On the other hand, though, VR therapy is different from video games in that its unique technological capacity helps enhance the sense of presence. In other words, when you use this technology, your ability to distinguish between the virtual world and reality could become negligible (Jose Gutierrez Maldonado, 2002).

  • Results obtained from any line of therapy will differ from one case to the next. Depending on the condition that you have, you may need more or less VR therapy sessions. Your therapist will help determine the number of sessions. In comparison with the traditional imaginative techniques, VR delivers quicker results because not everybody has the same imagination capacity. Also, VR reduces logistic time and costs associated with in vivo exposure. This means that you don’t need to step out of your therapist office to be exposed to stimuli of which you are afraid.

  • Various studies have shown that VR can promote a sense of presence and trigger bodily responses similar to in vivo exposure (Morina, N. et al., 2015). These reactions will help your therapist to work through them in sessions without the need for you to be placed in or exposed to an actual, high-risk scenario.

  • Many people with mental conditions tend to prefer VR therapy because in vivo exposure can be too intense (Garcia-Palacios et al., 2007). VR gives your therapist more control of the environment to which you are exposed, so that the level of exposure adjusts to and fits your needs and treatment stage. Also, VR therapy respects your confidentiality, being that you won’t need to leave your therapist’s office like in cases of real-life exposure.

Step-by-step how a VR therapy session works

  1. Your therapist will prepare the VE headset, headphones and electrodermal activity sensor.
  2. The Velcro sensors in the electrodermal activity sensor will be positioned on your left hand’s index and middle fingers.
  3. When you put on the headset, you’ll see a code appear. When you do, let your therapist know. This code will help your therapist pair the VR headset with the platform.
  4. You’ll now see a field. Please wait for your therapist to prepare the following scene.
  5. At this point, your virtual session has begun, and your therapist will begin to guide you through the VR scene. During the session, your therapist may ask you to define your level of anxiety using a scale from 1 to 10.
  6. VR will transport you to a virtual environment. Part of its success is attributable to your ability to let yourself go and be both immersed and present in the experience. If you do that, you’ll have a more vivid VR session that generates emotions and thoughts and helps your therapist support you.
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Interested in joining our team at Anxiety House Sunshine Coast (AHSC)?

    • Masters and/or Doctorate in Clinical Psychology
    • Eligible for registration with AHPRA as an endorsed “Clinical Psychologist” or eligibility for the clinical psychology registrar program
    • Eligible for Medicare registration
    • Professional indemnity insurance
    • Clinical supervision
      – Supportive team environment
    • Peer mentoring
    • Modern refurnished consulting rooms
    • Stream of referrals
    • Psychiatry input with our sister practice Oxford Clinic
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    • Marketing service.
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    • Career development and company progression
    • Free training in OCRD and Eating Disorders.
    • Working in a well-established clinic with a solid reputation
    • Be part of a larger organisation with sister clinics in Brisbane (double CPD)
    • Attractive remuneration
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  • Together, let us help those people who are suffering from mental disorders. If you’re interested, please complete the form below and we will reach out to you.

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