VR at the service of Mental Health
As a cognitive and behavioural treatment approach, Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy enables the health professional to safely expose the patient to anxiety provoking stimuli, without having to leave the medical office.
VR at the service of better aging
A new therapeutic solution for nursing homes and elderly care. Simple and intuitive, the software has been designed for assessing and stimulate the cognitive abilities among senior citizens.
VR serving mobility rehabilitation
A solution to immerse patients in environments that allows mobility assessment, vestibular rehabilitation, and functional rehabilitation for upper and lower limbs.
VR as an Education Tool
Education through virtual reality workshops for healthcare staff. By offering training for complex situations connected to the disorders treated by the C2Care programs, our education programs creates conditions for good and efficient practice.
Why use Virtual Reality in the mental health field?
Virtual Reality is a technology that is used to recreate synthetic environments that are real or imaginary. When the immersion takes place, the patients thus benefit from this treatment method, as it exposes them safely to their anxieties. Normally the anxiety provoking environments may be hard to reach, but with VR there is no need to leave the medical office.
This type of exposure has given birth to what is called the 4:th wave of cognitive behavioural therapies.
How long has VR existed as a treatment method?
The first scientifically validated protocol on VR was published in 1992. Until the year 2000 VR was however sparsely used in therapy. Today, thanks to technological progress and the cost-efficiency of VR-equipment, the technology is getting more widespread and accessible for therapeutic use
Who can use Virtual Reality as a treatment method?
VR can be used as a treatment tool by a wide range of professionals in the mental health field. Psychiatrists, psychologists and psychotherapists are the most represented users for VRET. Nevertheless, the programs are also used by nurses, physiotherapists, dieticians, sophrologues and hypnotherapists. As Virtual Reality environments can recreate almost any real situation, the opportunities to maximize therapeutic benefit have few boundaries.
How has virtual reality evolved?
To experience virtual reality, one has to be immersed in a virtual environment. To do this, there are some different ways. In the past, the CAVE system was used. This was a 3D set-up with walls made of screens, where movements were recorded and detected in real time. This solution was rather expensive and not very accessible.
Since 2016, with the release of the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, VR has become accessible for everyday use. These headsets allow immersion into virtual reality thanks to virtual environments being directly projected inside the headsets in front of the users eyes. The headsets take head movements into account, and allows the user to turn his head like in the real world.
What does one need to use a VR-headset?
Depending on which VR headset is being used, other devices may be required. Standalone headsets, such as the Oculus Go, can be used without the need to connect them to other devices such as a computer. For wired headsets like the Oculus Rift S, it is necessary to connect the headset to a “gamer” type computer. Depending on the therapeutic plans, you can also equip yourself with additional modules such as a pedal and a steering wheel in the case of treatment for amaxophobia (fear of driving).
What is a virtual environment?
A virtual environment is an environment where a patient can immerse into various situations or places. Depending on the functionality inherent in these, the patient will be able to move around and interact in this virtual world. The therapist has control over the exposure scenarios; and he is able to modify elements of the environments, add or remove stimuli (visual, sound) or program custom interactions. The primary objective is to reproduce environments that are difficult to access from the therapist’s office. Thanks to this technology, new perspectives become available to caregivers and the patient: dreamlike relaxation environments or personifications of abstract substrates like hallucinations or complex anxieties.
Can virtual reality be dangerous for patients?
Numerous studies confirm that the use of virtual reality is safe for patients. There are some restrictions however, to protect patients from possible negative consequences. People with epilepsy cannot benefit from this type of therapy. Children under 4 years old shouldn’t use VR, as their eye lense is not fully developed. The C2Care programs are certified as Class 1 Medical Device, which is a device with low or moderate risk to patient health.
What pathologies can be treated in virtual reality?
Currently, a large set of pathological areas can be treated in Virtual Reality.
Phobias in particular can be successfully treated in VR, ranging from social phobias, specific phobias or agoraphobias.
Specific phobias – for example – can be fear of flying (aviophobia). For fear of flying, C2Care have created a program that recreates every phase of airline travel; boarding, security, check in, take-off, in flight, turbulence and landing. Because of habituation the patient eventually overcomes her anxieties connected to fear of flying.
In virtuo treatment is very successful as it gives access to any environment possible for exposure, and those environments may be hard or costly to reach in real life. The same applies for fear of heights, Virtual reality tricks the brain and creates the same sensations as real heights do.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is also a pathology that can be treated by virtual reality.
The treatment of addictions, behavioral and to substances, are also made possible by virtual environments. For those conditions, Virtual reality makes habituation of cravings manageable, and thus re-educates the patient so she better can deal with them.
For eating disorders, the software makes it possible to target primordial etiological factors such as dysmorphophobia, allocentric lock and food craving.
In addition, we have multiple software responding to important psychiatric, psychological and neuropsychological determinants: relaxation, cognitive stimulation, behavioral activation, social skills…
Today, virtual reality in the field of mental health is advancing at great speed. Pathological targets are multiplying by researcher-clinician-developer interactions to offer new therapeutic devices.