Psious Inc. is creating virtual reality experiences to help people overcome their fears using the principle of exposure therapy. Exposure therapy allows people to incrementally experience a stimulus that can cause anxiety or fears. Psious is collaborating with mental health professionals by providing them with a set of self-contained mobile VR experiences designed to help expose people to small doses of a variety of different phobias including fear of flying, fear of needles, agoraphobia, acrophobia (fear of heights), fear of small animals, fear of public speaking, fear of driving.
Xavier Palomer Ripoll is the co-founder and CEO of Psious says that they originally got started in order to help one of the other co-founders get over his fear of flying. They were able to create an experience that successfully helped him overcome his fear of flying, and so they decided to build a company around this therapeutic application of these immersive technologies.
Psious already has over 90 mental health professionals who are using their bundled solution to work with patients suffering from a variety of different anxiety disorders. They’re starting to hear success stories and anecdotes from patients including one man who was able to ride the subway for the first time in six years after using their VR exposure therapy solution.
Xavier says that it may take traditional 10-15 sessions of traditional exposure therapy, and only an average of 6-8 sessions when it’s supplemented with a 15-minute VR exposure therapy experience. They usually start the VR portion in the therapy on either the second or third session, and they’re proud to hear the feedback that the patients really respond to and request these types of VR experiences in all of their sessions.
Here’s a number of research studies and meta-analyses that Psious has posted on their site that indicate that VR exposure therapy is really effective:
- Virtual reality exposure therapy for anxiety disorders: A meta-analysis
- Virtual reality exposure therapy in anxiety disorders: a quantitative meta-analysis
- Affective outcomes of virtual reality exposure therapy for anxiety and specific phobias: A meta-analysis
- Virtual reality exposure therapy in anxiety disorders: a systematic review of process-and-outcome studies
Psious also points to a number of research studies that indicate that the success rate of exposure therapy is a lot higher, and that you can get results faster if you use VR in combination with cognitive behavioral therapies. It also reduces the number of dropouts during the therapy.
- Redefining therapeutic success with virtual reality exposure therapy
- Comparing Acceptance and Refusal Rates of Virtual Reality Exposure vs. In Vivo Exposure by Patients with Specific Phobias
- Cognitive-behavioral treatment and antidepressants combined with virtual reality exposure for patients with chronic agoraphobia
Psious has a lot more information about their product and research to back it up listed in there product guide here. It’s exciting to hear about some of these therapeutic applications of virtual reality because it helps convince me that there are a lot of pragmatic applications of VR that are going to just become more and more common as the technology becomes more affordable and accessible for these types of applications.
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