A recent article explores the possibility of using technological advances to provide avatar based cognitive behavioral therapy. Willem-Paul Brinkman, a researcher at TU Delft, has developed a prototype designed to simulate conditions found in flying in an attempt to help people with phobias of flying. The Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET) may someday be able to provide therapeutic resolution for people suffering with phobias or anxieties, and potentially even social issues such as paranoia. A vibrating seat that mimicked the movements of a passenger airplane seat was among the first of the inventions at the Deft Mental Health Computing Lab. The researchers have since explored the addition of a virtual reality helmet to be worn while clients are in the seat. The combination of sensations, both physical and auditory, would maximize the simulation of flying. This form of exposure therapy would allow therapists to put clients in the situations that they fear in a virtual manner in order to help them overcome their phobia. This will allow professionals to observe and assess the client’s responses more accurately and in a real time environment.
Chaotic and active environments often trigger symptoms for people suffering with social phobias. “We have now conducted research on what happens when we expose people to a busy environment and to people of a different ethnicity; two factors which are known to relate to psychosis. People with paranoia seem to show a similar response to situations in the virtual world as in the real world,” explains Dr Wim Veling from the psychiatric institute Parnassia in Delft Outlook.
The goal of the research is to create a model of cognitive behavioral therapy that will arm a client with the necessary exposure and tools to be able to change their behaviors when in these feared situations. “In the virtual world, we encourage them to respond differently…because [they] know that there is no real danger,” said the researchers.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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