“VR therapy provides the opportunity for mental health professionals to not only reproduce real-life scenarios but also to adapt and control these environments to suit the individual needs of their clients. This technology allows mental health professionals to evaluate and identify their client’s fears and anxieties within the safety of a consultation room. VR is a tool that effectively facilitates the application of psychological evaluation and intervention protocols.”
I am trained to conduct Virtual Reality therapy and there are less than a handful of psychologists in South Africa that are offering this type of therapy. I have the necessary equipment and programme access required through Psious. This includes the Pico G2 VR headset (3K LCD screen) and a physiological sensor. The sensor fits onto the client’s fingers and it measures electrodermal activity and skin responses. This is used to monitor and measure a client’s fear response and anxiety levels in order to actively change and adjust VR environments to enable VR exposure and therapeutic progress. Throughout the VR therapy process I will have access to your VR environment and be able to decrease or increase variables/factors in the environment. For example, if you have a fear of heights- we can increase or decrease the height in your VR experience, or if you have a fear of spiders- we can increase or decrease the spider’s proximity to you, the size of the spider and the number of spiders in your VR experience. I can provide you with a graph detailing your responses throughout the sessions and with the environmental variable changes pin pointed.
The beauty of the VR therapy modality is that clients can observe their surroundings as if in real-life settings and this enables more effective change as we tackle the symptoms or fears virtually and, in this way, create a systematic desensitisation exposure experience.
This treatment platform allows for personalised treatments and I can control the stimuli that impacts your symptoms, disorders and phobias. Thus, I can adjust each VR environment to suit each client’s specific needs. I as your therapist and you as the client have control over the experience at all times. Very useful clinical stimuli can be gathered from these sessions by motoring the client’s verbal feedback, as well as their physical experience as shown via the physiological sensors. This information can then be combined with traditional talk therapy for optimal results. All your session graphs will be saved to monitor your improvement and you can have these reports printed for your own records.
VR therapy is scientifically validated with over a decade worth of controlled studies that prove its efficacy. There are currently 70 VR environments to access. Some of these VR environments are specifically designed to be similar to real life and these have parameters and variables that can be altered by the therapist. Others are 360° environments based on real video footage and these are fixed without changeable variables, but are the most realistic.
Psychological disorders and symptoms that VR can assist with:
- Eating disorders
- Stress and trauma
- Acrophobia (fear of heights)
- Agoraphobia (fear of public places)
- Arachnophobia (fear of spiders)
- aerophobia (fear of flying)
- amaxophobia (fear of driving)
- nyctophobia (fear of the dark)
- zoophobia (fear of animals)
- Claustrophobia (fear of crowded spaces)
- Generalised anxiety
- Fear of medical procedures
- Public speaking
- Social anxiety
- Public speaking
- Test and exam anxiety
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
- Sleep-wake disorders
- Somatic disorders
- Pain management
- Sport performance
Virtual reality therapy cost
Due to the equipment and report required for a virtual reality therapy session- a VRT session would require a cash-in-hand co-payment of R100 above the regular medical aid or cash rate.