Using Virtual Reality In Panic Disorder Therapy
Virtual reality therapy uses virtual environments designed to support
exposure of common anxiety disorders.
Exposing the patient to an anxiety provoking virtual environment
is more realistic than having the patient imagine the environment,
and more controlled than exposing the patient to the actual environment.
The virtual environment is controlled by the therapist, allowing
the therapist to manipulate situations to best suit the individual
patient, and is designed specifically for use within the confines
of a therapists office, during a standard therapy hour.
Virtual experience is an “empowering environment” that
therapy provides for patients.
Patient Response To VR Therapy
With the assurance that in the VR environment, nothing can ‘actually’
happen, the patients feel more confident to freely explore, experiment,
feel, live, and experience feelings and/or thoughts. VR therapy
is a very useful intermediate step between the therapist’s
office and the real world. Using VR therapy, the patient is:
- likely to feel more secure, better enabling the patient to
express thoughts and feelings that are otherwise too difficult
- able to gain an awareness of his or her need to change and
to experience a greater sense of personal efficacy.
VR therapy has been shown to foster a positive therapeutic alliance
and as a catalyst for a broader empowerment process in three dimensions:
- Perceived control: beliefs about authority,
decision-making skills, availability of resources, and autonomy
in the scheduling and performance of work.
- Perceived competence: role-mastery requiring
the skilful accomplishment of one or more assigned tasks, also
requires successful coping with non-routine role-related situations.
- Goal internalization: captures the energizing
property of a worthy cause or exciting vision provided by the
organizational leadership. VR therapy is a special, sheltered
setting where patients can start to explore and act without feeling
VR therapy can be employed as a supportive technique at the onset
of treatment to gain confidence or used in the course of treatment
should a crisis occur, assisting the patient to overcome the set
VR Hardware Requirements
To run the virtual reality therapy simulations, the following
hardware is required:
- 3D Head Mounted Display
- Head Tracker
- 3D Controller
How These Components Work
The VR image is projected into the 3D Head Mounted Display. Movements
of the head are tracked in real time with the Head Tracker.
The 3D Controller is used by the patient to move forwards, backwards
and side to side in the virtual environment.
Virtual Reality Environments
Virtual Realities Inc provide four free virtual environments for
Panic Disorders that can be download and used:
- Open space –central town square
- Underground space – subway
- Closed space – elevator
- Busy space – supermarket
To find out more about using these virtual reality environments
to treat panic disorders, see the
Virtual Realities Inc website.
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