Seven therapeutic uses of VR and AR devices – TechTalks

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People say therapy isn’t for everyone. But everyone should at least have the opportunity to get it, and they don’t. Not only are the treatment options relatively expensive, but they are also not accessible to everyone.

Technology not only contributes to affordability and accessibility, but also provides individuals with various options for how they experience their therapy. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) devices, in particular, enhance different types of therapy and make the experience more engaging, immersive and accessible.

Let’s take a closer look below at seven therapeutic uses of AR and VR.

An immersive remote therapy experience

Previously, the remote therapy experience was limited to making an appointment over the phone or chatting with a mental health professional via video chat. But now remote therapy is much more immersive, thanks to VR and AR devices.

Therapists can use these devices to fully immerse their patients in a virtual world or augment their real world with digital tools and experiences that enhance their therapy.

Additionally, VR and AR devices create a safe space for social interactions in this immersive remote therapy experience.

Create a safe space for social interactions

Many people turn to therapists for help with mental health issues related to socializing. But, whether it’s social anxiety or depression-induced isolation, introducing patients to social settings can be much safer in a virtual world.

VR devices allow patients to meet and socialize with others at their own pace and make real progress towards socializing in the real world.

In addition to creating a safe space for social interactions, VR and AR devices also create a safe space to confront triggers and trigger events.

Coping with Triggers or Trigger Events

VR and AR devices can be useful for dealing with triggers. Therapists struggle to accurately recreate trigger events in real time to help their patients navigate them.

But with the help of VR devices, patients can be transported to a virtual recreation of a triggering event with their therapist and essentially be hand-held through the confrontation process.

The confrontation of triggers and triggering events is particularly important in exposure therapy.

Exposure therapy

AR devices can be used to enhance exposure therapy. Exposure therapy aims to help people overcome their fears. AR offers an avenue to confront and overcome fears through interactive digital-first experiences.

Not only do AR devices make exposure therapy more immersive and engaging, they are also easier for patients to access and use. Additionally, increasing exposure therapy with AR devices facilitates a controlled environment to confront fears, adding to the value and effectiveness of AR in therapeutic care.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy

EMDR is under the umbrella of somatic therapy, a form of psychotherapy that helps people overcome past traumatic events that are causing their current mental health issues.

EMDR is primarily used to help patients come to terms with an individual traumatic memory or event. They are asked to briefly focus on the distressing memory while participating in bilateral eye movement stimulation. These movements can help reduce the vividness and emotional trauma of a memory.

Incorporating VR devices into this type of therapy allows patients to have a more immersive session at home or in their therapist’s office. Additionally, working on those individual memories can become more manageable when you recreate the exact experience in an alternate world.

Music therapy

Music naturally has properties that boost morale. Thus, many therapists use music to help their patients improve their mental health and overcome specific physical, emotional, cognitive and social challenges.

Listening to music on a stereo or through a pair of headphones is one thing. But completely immersing yourself in a virtual concert, nature scene, or other music-related experience through a VR device is another.

Many patients who receive enhanced music therapy with VR or AR devices report experiencing deeper relaxation, decreased anxiety, improved cognitive abilities, and better emotional stability.

Sensory Integration Therapy

Sensory Integration Therapy is primarily for children who experience sensory difficulties or delays. But that doesn’t mean adults living with sensory challenges can’t benefit from this type of therapy.

This approach aims to help patients process sensory information and use the five senses individually and collectively. These sessions are usually grounded in play, as therapists use equipment like swings, trampolines, slides, brushes, weight vests, balls, and protective mats to enhance treatment.

VR devices can be incredibly useful in sensory integration therapy when patients cannot visit their therapist in person or when physical equipment is not available. Patients can instead strap on a VR headset and virtually interact with the equipment to elicit different sensation responses, manage sensory overload, and improve motor skills.

Conclusion

When implemented appropriately, VR and AR devices can enhance therapy sessions, whether in person or remotely. Not only can they perform specific types of therapy better, but they can also make remote therapy, in general, safer and more immersive.

Continue to observe how VR and AR devices are integrated into therapy and take advantage of these experiences if they are offered in your therapy journey.

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