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Virtual Reality and psychology treatment

Flying phobia
Explore the relationship between Information an Communication Technologies and Psychology, more specific between Virtual Reality and clinical treatments through an example about a research group who is working in this field in Spain.

Have you ever heard about using virtual reality for psychology treatments? Have you ever thought that these two topics are related? Technology is growing, we are living in a world when we find it easier to use the devices to comunicate with each other than to meet with others. People work in this field, and there are lot of projects from research teams who are working on this, for example there are people who are working in Virtual Reality for psychological interventions.


In Spain, LabPsiTec (Laboratory of Psychology and Technology), at Universitat Jaume I of Castellón and Universitat de València, has been searching for more than 15 years the possibilities of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for Clinical Psychology. These ICT tools (Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Internet, mobil devices, etc) can be used as a tool for assesment and treatment as well as for the study of basic psychological processes. 


This group use the Virtual Reality for several treatments using the exposition as a tool, in the treatment of various psychological disorders including: Trauma and Stressor-Related Disorder, pathological grief or Adjustment Disorder (AD). For the treatment of Acrophobia or phobia to heights, for Panic Disorders and Agoraphobia, Flying Phobia, Eating Disorders and Pathological Gambling


They are also researching about the possibility to use Augmented Reallity, which consist a real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input, to treat Small Animal Phobia and Acrophobia.


For example, imagine that you suffer of flying phobia (FP), this Project focuses on evaluating and effectiveness of the use of new technologies in treatment of this kind of phobia, using Virtual Reallity(VR) as a therapeutic tool.


But, how does it work? Trough VR, exposure can be done, and this is the most effective behavioural theraphy for FP and the most higly recommended by any psychologist, integrating other cognitive and behavioral methods to improve their effectiveness.


A softwer which simulates different significant scenarios for people with fear of flying has already been developed. It allows individual exposures fully adjusted to the situations of distress, including trip preparation, dynamic information panels, conversations at the airport, storms, takeoffs under several weather conditions, night flight, turbulence, etc. The clinician can control and achieve a high degree of realism.


The software is composed of 3 main roms; the hotel room (to work with anticipatory anxiety), the airport (the patient faces the moments before the flight), and the plane.


Several controlled studies with pre-and post-intervention and follow-up data have proven the usefulness of VR for the treatment of FP, and the high acceptance and patient satisfaction with technology.


So, seems that technologies are more and more in our lives and this researches are in the correct way and future work and developements will be in this line.


Author: Sandra Ferri Llinares, EVS volunteer at Youth Association Alfa Albona

Published: Thu, 07/01/2016 - 12:48

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