Using VR to Confront Your Fears

By: Dr Carla Kesrouani June 14, 2023 no comments

Using VR to Confront Your Fears

Virtual reality technology is increasingly being used as an innovative approach in psychotherapy. VR therapy shows particular promise in helping clients overcome phobias and anxiety disorders through exposure therapy.

How VR Helps Treat Anxiety

Provides Safe Exposure. Virtual reality allows patients to face fear-inducing situations in a safe and controlled environment. For instance, those with acrophobia can “stand” at the edge of virtual cliffs or skyscrapers without any real danger. The more realistic the VR experience, the more effective the treatment.

Triggers Physical Reactions. Due to its immersive nature, VR can provoke many physiological responses similar to real-life experiences. This includes increased heart rate, sweating and rapid breathing in anxious patients – helping to rewire negative associations in the brain.

Encourages Repetitive Exposure. Clients can repeatedly practice confronting VR scenarios without the constraints of traditional in vivo exposure therapy. Therapists simply adjust the VR experience until patients become desensitized to their fears and anxiety subsides.

Furthermore, cc exposures can progress from less anxiety-provoking situations to more challenging ones, building up clients’ coping skills and confidence over time.

How a VR Session Works

During treatment, clients wear VR headsets and use controllers or other sensors to interact with simulated environments. Therapists help patients navigate scenarios designed to trigger their fears, like boarding an airplane for those with aviophobia or walking through a crowded space for those with social anxiety.

As patients experience physiological reactions during virtual reality exposure, therapists guide them in applying coping skills like diaphragmatic breathing, positive self-talk and cognitive restructuring. Progress is evaluated by monitoring reductions in anxiety, negative thoughts and physical responses over multiple sessions.

In conclusion, virtual reality therapy shows great promise as a technology-assisted form of exposure therapy. Compared to traditional methods, it can produce similar – and sometimes superior – treatment outcomes while also adding an engaging and gamified element to exposure exercises. As VR hardware continues to improve in affordability, accessibility and realism, this innovative approach is poised to transform how therapists treat anxiety disorders in the years ahead.



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