woman using vr goggles outdoors

Opening My Eyes to Virtual Reality Interventions

It happened this summer 2022… As a high school art teacher, my neighbor was budgeted money to purchase virtually reality (VR) headsets for her students. Luckily, she invited me over to experience the Oculus Meta Quest 2 headsets. After having fun learning to draw in a 360° environment, I became curious as to how VR technology could be used in mental health treatment. Looking at research on VR’s effectiveness specifically with exposure therapies (VRET), I found some very useful and encouraging information .

Promising Research

Research has been promising about the future of VRETs, “Despite strong evidence of effectiveness, [VRET] exposure therapy is an underutilized treatment for anxiety disorders at a time when effective treatment for anxiety is greatly needed. The significant worldwide prevalence and negative impact of anxiety are documented and highlight the importance of increasing therapist and patient use of effective treatment”(Boeldt, McMahon, McFaul, & Greenleaf, 2019).

Furthermore, Boeldt, McMahon, McFaul, and Greenleaf, (2019) claim that “research on VR applications and collaborative development of clinical content are recommended to move this tool forward in the field. Therapists experienced in VRET can serve as subject matter experts in the development of content. Training in VRET and other uses of VR should be offered in graduate school and through continuing education. Ongoing expansion of training in VRET for therapists is one way essential to address the vast need for anxiety treatment.”

Some of the limitations of VRET are patients experiencing dizziness or not willing to participate in the treatment program using technology. However, studies indicate that VRET patients like knowing that the have complete control of their VR experience and can end it at any time.

What I am looking for…

Here is the problem, I have been running into the lack of initial training on VRET apps and what apps can be used with which Headsets. This information does not seem to exist which would help make informative decisions (Please feel free send me links if you know of any). Also, there are no regulations, ethical guidelines, or certification training in VR interventions. Hopefully graduate level mental health training and continuing education programs are getting on board to address VRT

My goal as a researcher, educator and mental health counselor is to continue to learn as much as I can about VRT and share the results.

This I am interested in: do you have any experience as a patient or counselor with VRT? Know of any training programs specifically for licensed professionals? Please leave a comment below. TY!!

Boeldt, D., McMahon, E., McFaul, M., & Greenleaf, W. (2019). Using virtual reality exposure therapy to enhance treatment of anxiety disorders: identifying areas of clinical adoption and potential obstacles. Frontiers in psychiatry, 10, 773.

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