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The Role of Virtual Reality in Mental Health Treatment

"Unlocking Healing Potential

By Alvin EsguerraPublished 6 months ago 3 min read
The Role of Virtual Reality in Mental Health Treatment
Photo by Minh Pham on Unsplash

When we think of virtual reality, we often think of entertainment. But VR has also become a useful tool in the mental health space. It's giving our minds exercise and the ability to have hands-on experiences, whether we're triggered or not, and have fun with it.

VR technology is revolutionizing mental health treatment by offering unprecedented assistance to our minds and bodies. With its immersive and interactive nature, virtual reality provides a powerful tool for therapeutic interventions. It allows individuals to engage in simulated environments that cater to their specific needs, fostering a safe space for exploration and healing.

Through tailored VR experiences, people can confront and overcome their fears, anxieties, and traumas in a controlled and supportive setting. Moreover, VR enables clinicians to offer exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and other evidence-based interventions in a more accessible and cost-effective manner. By harnessing the potential of VR, mental health professionals are transforming the way we approach and enhance our psychological well-being, promoting lasting positive change.

Clinical therapist Lisa Lichenstein explains three mental health conditions that are being treated with VR. First up, addictive disorders. Virtual reality can be a rehearsal. Let's say a person who wants to stop smoking puts on the whole virtual reality kit. They walk through life as a non-smoker, substituting the times when they would smoke with doing something different. VR helps curb addiction by showing healthy alternatives. The therapist might ask, "What can you do instead? What are you seeing right now? What are you experiencing on the walk?" This gives people a real-time experience of making positive changes while having a cool time.

Can virtual reality help improve your mental health? Studies have shown that VR therapy can equip people with new skills to handle past, present, and future situations. Just think about how VR therapy can provide individuals with the opportunity to practice overcoming their fears. Don't be afraid to change triggers. When you were triggered, do you remember the painful memories? The mind holds on to painful memories for a reason – to prevent us from repeating the same mistakes.

Now, why does this matter? Well, despite the fact that many people worldwide suffer from mental health disorders, there is limited availability and access to care. This is where cost-effective solutions like VR therapy can be incredibly beneficial, especially when they reduce symptoms by up to 75 percent. VR therapy can also help ease pain, reduce anxiety, and assist with phobias and ADHD symptoms.

VR technology has been steadily improving over the years. From the headset to therapists displaying real and imagined scenes, individuals can explore new situations without the fear of physical or emotional harm. VR therapy can even be designed to create therapeutic environments where anything can happen. Most importantly, it allows you to approach and cope with your triggers effectively.

This is particularly significant for veterans who can enter simulations to help them deal with devastating traumatic experiences. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), caused by any traumatic event or experience, can greatly impact a person's life. For instance, someone involved in a severe car accident may experience intense flashbacks, dizziness, overwhelming anxiety, or nausea when they get into a car again.

It's excellent that VR therapy can reach more people more effectively as the need for mental health treatment rises. It offers self-paced, remote, and less expensive alternatives. Fear therapy is an exciting field still being studied. It simulates experiences, promotes relaxation, and offers practice to improve mental health.

The last disorder that VR can help with is anxiety. Through in-situation coaching, it walks a person through what they used to be anxious about, giving them the ability to use all their representational systems to view it securely and comfortably. They can imagine something other than their fears and anxieties, and their bodies can follow suit, which builds confidence. They can see the progress they're making without any panic attacks, not just in a day but over their entire week, month, and year.

VR technology is helping our minds and bodies by providing assistance in mental health treatment.

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