Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy for Phobias
I have been treating clients based in the UK for many years now who have presented with various anxiety based phobias, some of the more common ones being fear of flying (Aerophobia), fear of spiders(Arachnaphobia), fear of heights (Acrophobia), fear of confined spaces (Claustrophobia) using cognitive behavioural therapy treatment alongside hypnosis, guided imagery and graded exposure therapy. This would involve implementing counselling for phobias by teaching my clients how to use specific relaxation routines, challenging their negative thought patterns using cognitive restructuring, building a feared hierarchy ladder which would be used alongside the client picturing themselves themselves in anxiety provoking situations and then exposing themselves to the situation in reality. This is one form of CBT driven therapeutic intervention that has traditionally been used for decades, the only drawback being the difficulty in getting my client to experience and reproduce the same thoughts and feelings that they would experience if they where being exposed to a real situation rather than in the safety of a clinical setting. Virtual Reality Exposure therapy or VRET as it is commonly known has been proving to be a very effective addition to my therapy tool set and virtual reality cognitive behavioural therapy (VR-CBT) is also very helpful in dealing with other anxiety issues .
Virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) makes use of a virtual world based in and created by VR technology to put an individual in situations they can actually learn from, supported by the therapist. If the goal is to overcome a fear such as an MRI scan or needle injection, my client will be exposed to the particular fear, with exposure gradually increasing over several treatment sessions. As a therapist I provide talking therapy treatment before, after, and sometimes during the virtual experience to help my client process what they have seen and experienced in the healthiest way possible. VRET is typically one aspect of a larger therapeutic intervention and for the Virtual Reality therapy part, my client is exposed to a specially-designed virtual situation with stimuli they have previously associated with trauma, fear or unpleasant situations such as a trip to the dentist or hospital which has brought about anxiety and panic. The first scenes the person may see in treatment might contain just a few instances of these stimuli. Over the course of therapy, the negative stimuli located can increase in number and intensity. Being exposed to your greatest fears using Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy helps your body and mind become more used to them so that they no longer provoke anxious or fearful feelings.
The therapy platforms I use are Psious, C2Phobia and Limbix, who are at the for-front of VR therapy and I also use phobia apps from Google, Steam and Samsung app-stores. The Virtual reality headsets I use for my VRET sessions are Oculus Rift, Oculus Gear, Oculus Go, HTC Vive and Google Daydream.
Psious is a Spanish and American behavioral health technology company whose main treatment product is the Psious Toolsuite, a virtual reality platform for therapists aimed at bringing value to mental health treatment. The platform uses VRET to provide mental health professionals with animated and live environments they can use in their clinical practice. The various phobia scenarios provided within the platform comprise over 50 resources (Virtual reality and augmented reality environments, 360º videos, etc.) employed for the treatment of anxiety disorders, fears and phobias, as well as for the practice of Mindfulness and relaxation techniques also located in the platform.
C2Care is a French healthcare company that has developed C2Phobia and feels that the main purpose of virtual reality exposure therapy is to immerse the patient to progressively face to their particular fear. For each phobia several steps of exposure are available, and can be repeated over and over if necessary.The application and environments are entirely made by their teams of engineers and designers in-house. The protocols and the specifications are written by their Scientific Committee composed of university hospitals and health professionals.There are many benefits of virtual reality: patient safety, no travel outside the firm (for example the Aviophobia), comfort care, confidentiality, better graduation of phobia environments and possibility to repeat the scenes to infinity in treatment.
Limbix VR also uses Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy as a base which enables clients to interact with people and places in authentic, virtual environments. Patients can face their fears and phobias, practice conversations, visit remote locations, and relax in tranquil settings. Limbix VR environments are built from panoramic images and videos, rather than animated graphics. This enables the VR scenes to feel more authentic - client,s experience true "presence" with visceral sensations.
Some of the most common phobias my client,s tend to present with are:
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Acrophobia (fear of heights)
Arachnaphobia (fear of spiders and other arachnids)
Aerophobia (fear of flying)
Cynophobia (fear of dogs)
Ailurophobia (fear of cats)
Amaxophobia (fear of driving)
Musophobia (fear of mice and rats)
Orniphobia ( fear of birds such as pigeons)
Caustrophobia (fear of confined spaces)
Agoraphobia (fear of panicking in open spaces and crowded places)
Ochlophobia (fear of crowds)
Ophthalmophobia (fear of being stared at)
Glossophobia (fear of public speaking)
Social Phobia (social anxiety disorder)
School Phobia (fear of going to or being at school)
Exam Phobia (test anxiety)
Dentophobia (fear of dentists and dental procedures)
Trypanophobia (fear of needles)
Astraphobia (fear of storms)
Cleithrophobia (fear of lifts & elevators)
Nyctophobia (fear of the dark)
Emetophobia (fear of vomit)
Here are YouTube clips of Limbix, C2Phobia and Psious VR Therapy in action
"With 20 years of clinical expertise in mental health Simon practises virtual reality exposure therapy and virtual reality cognitive behavioural therapy in Surrey, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Egham, Hounslow, Heathrow Airport, Staines upon Thames, Ashford in Middlesex, Stanwell, Laleham, Bedfont, Feltham, Windsor, Wentworth, Virginia Water, Englefield Green, Wraysbury, Thorpe Park, Woking, Colnbrook, Chertsey, Sunbury, Ascot, Eton, Addlestone, Richmond upon Thames, Twickenham, Slough, Shepperton, Datchet, Winkfield, Cranbourne, Whitely Village, Windlesham, Hampton, Hanworth, Hythe End, Clewer, Southall, Isleworth, West Molesy, Esher, Wexham Court, Richings Park, Cranford, Harlington, Harmondsworth, uk and surrounding areas in 2018."
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