Even if you are familiar with psychotherapy treatment, you may wonder what virtual reality therapy is all about.

While this technology may not be is everyone’s home yet,  health care providers,  therapists and life coaches have found that virtual reality therapy can provide safe and highly effective treatment of a number of conditions. The therapy is particularly helpful for people dealing with high levels of fear and anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias,  and chronic pain, among other debilitating conditions. 

Virtual Reality Therapy: How it Works

Though the technology is new, it is based on empirically proven therapeutic techniques.  The technology includes a head-mounted virtual reality display unit, and a computer or smartphone.  Using the headset allows you to enter a safe and controlled three-dimensional  simulated environment for short periods of time of exposure therapy.  You can encounter a triggering experience in a safe, controlled manner over time. Short, controlled exposure permits the brain to stop ending fear signals. As the brain stops sending fear signals, the anxiety-provoking trigger becomes weaker and weaker. 

Say for example, that you are a person who is terrified of public speaking and yet, you work in a field that requires you to speak often in public situations.  Working with a coach and virtual reality technology, you can face an audience in a very controlled manner.  A coach or therapist is then able to cue relaxation techniques  as you “experience” the situation, helping you to relax and work your way through in a more relaxed and more complete way. 

How Exposure Therapies Work

Exposure therapies, often used to treat anxiety and phobias, require graduated steps.  A person who is afraid of heights will not be able to look out over the side of a skyscraper right away. So using virtual reality technology in therapeutic settings requires that the anxiety-provoking triggers escalate slowly and predictably, allowing a person to face their fears gradually. 

This type of therapy is best coupled with breathing, mindfulness, meditation, and  relaxation techniques to allow a person a variety of tools in the face of anxiety-provoking situations.  

Finally, it is helpful to strengthen  your internal dialogue in the face of fear or anxiety to include self talk that is both more positive and  reflective of a more complete experience. This helps you understand that they can have  responses to the situation, other than fear. 

Other Techniques Can Be Coupled With Virtual Reality Therapy

In the same way, if you need help with chronic pain for example, virtual reality technology may provide a tool to help you find greater relaxation in the face of chronic pain.  Those in pain may have difficulty settling into a safe and comfortable place. Virtual reality technology allows a variety of images and stimulus that make the relaxation reflex occur more quickly. 

When coupled with breathing and mediation techniques, you can lessen the amount of pain medications needed to help control your pain. 

Using Your Breath To Face Life

Virtual reality therapy can be a valuable tool for relaxation.  Immersing yourself in relaxing sights and sounds, especially in natural settings is a way to move naturally toward a meditative state.  This can be a provide a natural gateway to meditation. 

Leaning to breathe deeply and calmly can be a very helpful tool toward decreasing anxiety and increasing a calm relaxed state of body and mind.  Whether done with virtual reality technology or on their own, breathing techniques are an important tool in the treatment of fear and anxiety

There are two virtual reality therapy tools that I use with clients. One is developed by Psious and the other by Limbix. Both Psious and Limbix have developed protocols around many different scenarios to help clients overcome their fears. There are programs for general anxiety, trauma, depression, adolescent depression, and social anxiety in addition to guided exposure therapy  for such targeted programs such as driving, public speaking, heights, agoraphobia and the like. 

Public speaking, interviewing and social skills are examples of exposure therapies that are relevant from a executive coaching perspective.

If you have further questions, please bring them to me.  I would love to answer them to see if this therapy might work for you.