Virtual reality therapy training is changing how professionals deliver mental health care to their patients.
That’s a good thing.
Mental health issues affect every country; in fact, they’ve been on the rise, especially in the last quarter century. We haven’t done too well in the past at providing mental health care. That’s changing.
By the year 2030, we will have spent an estimated $16 trillion on advocacy and care, worldwide. That sum doesn’t include costs outside health care, like a reduction in productivity or the affect of mental health on family members and friends.
VR therapy is poised to change how we treat patients for mental health issues. Psychologists are already working on making the treatment less expensive and more effective, especially when treating PTSD, providing exposure therapy, and overcoming phobias.
As a result, patients may be able to reclaim their lives, thanks to VR therapy training.
Virtual reality therapy for PTSD
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurs when someone survives a terrible experience. The victim relives the horrors of events like assault or war. For example, a person with PTSD may present with nightmares; extreme reactions to lights, sounds or smells; or may repeatedly relive the trauma.
PTSD affects nearly 25 million people in the United States alone. The disease can cripple patients, preventing them from living a normal life, unless they seek professional help.
Traditionally, therapists talk to patients about the events that caused the PTSD and they suggest coping strategies.
With virtual reality therapy training, patients safely can relive the traumatic experience in an authentic simulation. Because the simulation is not real, there is no danger of getting hurt. Every part of the simulation is controlled. The therapist acts as a guide who makes sure nothing overwhelms the patient. Afterward, they discuss the experience.
Virtual reality therapy training desensitizes the patient to trauma.
If it’s true that the best way to recover from a fall is to get back on the horse, then exposure therapy can help mental health patients recover from trauma.
Virtual reality therapy simulates the trauma-causing experience. For example, if you’re afraid of flying, your virtual reality therapy may consist of traveling by air. VR allows you to experience the journey from checking in to take-off.
The therapist works alongside the patient, encouraging the use of coping strategies. As the two work together, the therapist can increase the simulated risk by introducing high winds, thunderstorms, and even turbulence.
Even odorous smells can be recreated in VR therapy training, which is critical for victims of war.
Virtual reality therapy training also can help people living with fear. Those fears don’t have to develop out of trauma.
Common fears of heights, spiders, and public speaking are very real, and in some cases, devastating to people. By incorporating VR therapy training into their sessions, therapists can take their patients to a ledge on a tall building and acclimate them to the height – without the danger of falling.
The Lancet Psychiatry reports that when gradually increased over time, repeated virtual reality therapy training can reduce phobias.
Virtual reality is already a mainstay in other health disciplines, including surgery. It’s only a matter of time until virtual reality therapy training gains a following in the mental health industry.