- The treatment system inserts participants into simulated everyday events, such as taking public transport or attending a doctor’s appointment.
- In the simulation, participants are prompted to complete certain tasks and are encouraged to make eye contact with other characters.
- Mental health workers are present during each session to help guide individuals and apply learning concepts.
A team of researchers is using virtual reality to treat individuals with agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is an extreme or irrational fear that arises when away from home, in crowded places, or somewhere where escape is difficult.
The treatment system inserts participants into simulated events, such as taking public transport or attending a doctor’s appointment. The simulation is designed to help people build confidence by practicing their approach in navigating various situations. Participants are prompted to complete certain tasks throughout the simulation such as requesting a beverage, and are encouraged to make eye contact with other characters.
According to The Guardian, participants had the opportunity to use the VR in six sessions over the course of six weeks, each session lasting 30 minutes. A mental health worker was present during each participant’s session to help guide and apply learning concepts.
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Results from the study reveal that six weeks after the trials began, those who received VR therapy enjoyed decreased levels of distress and avoided less real-life situations, compared to those who did not receive VR therapy. However, further analysis revealed that these effects were sustained at six months by individuals with severe agoraphobia.
As VR technology continues to improve, the associated costs of treatment will reduce and result in greater accessibility of the therapy program.