Previous research has found virtual reality may help with other psychological challenges. A 2015 study found people with an alcohol addiction could practice dealing with temptation thanks to the assistance of virtual reality. In 2014, a study pointed to the role of virtual reality in helping veterans with posttraumatic stress face their trauma through virtual exposure therapy.
The Effect of Virtual Reality on Depression
A research team led by Chris Brewin, a professor in University College London’s Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, first developed the virtual reality technique with a group of volunteers without depression. They then tested it on 15 people ages 23-61 with depression. The group included 10 men and five women.
The procedure required participants to wear a virtual reality helmet while counseling a virtual child crying in distress. As participants showed compassion toward the virtual child, the crying gradually subsided. Next, the roles were reversed, and participants embodied the distressed child while listening to an adult provide the same counseling they had just offered. Each “therapy” session lasted eight minutes. Participants repeated the sessions three times over a week, and then again one month later.
Future Research on Virtual Reality
Though the study’s results are promising, the small sample makes it difficult to generalize the results to a larger population. Brewin and his team say more research is necessary to determine how virtual reality might affect a larger sample of people with depression.
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