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Virtual Reality: The Future of Therapy?



Virtual Reality…Every kid’s dream of total emersion into a fictional environment fending off creatures from distant planets in order to save the distressed maiden suddenly doesn’t seem that farfetched. With a number of up and coming tech companies producing more and more incredible versions of VR headsets every few months, the ability to have an out-of-this-world experience without ever leaving your living room is becoming a major possibility. Oculus has the Rift, HTC has the Vive, Sony has the Playstation VR, Google even offers a cardboard version of a VR headset, and there are so many more emerging to compete in the VR world.


There are a number of kinks that still have to be worked out before one can virtually travel through time. Issues with users getting sick, “full body” emersion in which you could look down and see “your body” in the VR world still needs improvement, and tactile improvements that allow one to feel while experiencing VR are just a few of the hurdles that have yet to be conquered.


Once all of the kinks are worked out, though, can you imagine the possibilities? The VR technology will eventually be perfected and then programming for them will begin to expand to every topic you can imagine. From walking on the moon, being the hero in your own first-person shooter video game, to whatever the imaginative adult industry comes up with, I’m expecting the sky’s the limit with what we will be able to accomplish in a virtual reality world.


Putting aside the fact that we will have access to some mind blowing entertainment, imagine what VR can do for those seeking therapy for PTSD, grief, obsessive disorders, depression, anxiety, or phobias.


The way we do therapy could change forever as a result of VR.


Not this Time!

Picture yourself as a victim of assault. Imagine that you are able to relive that traumatic moment you were attacked…but instead, this time you are able to fight off your attacker, giving you confidence back that you once embodied but was robbed from you long ago.

Essentially, I’m talking about changing the past. I’m talking about virtually erasing your past traumatic event, and replacing it with a new memory involving all of the same characters but the outcome has changed. The changed outcome is one that empowers you as opposed to the old memory’s outcome in which you are left feeling scared, alone, and robbed of your dignity.


A Final Goodbye

Have you ever lost someone you loved? Do you wish you could have said one last thing to them? Told them you loved them just one more time? What if Virtual Reality allowed you to do just that.


As a form of grief therapy using VR, what if we were able to place our deceased loved ones in a virtual world by scanning old images or uploading old videos of them, and then were able to speak with them one last time. Tell them the one thing we never got to say. They may not even be able to speak back, but at least you can see them and speak to them one last time offering us the closure we feel we never were able to achieve before.


Virtually Facing your Fears

It’s common knowledge that one of the best ways to get over your fear of snakes (for example) is get face to face with a snake. Desensitize yourself to the very stimuli that sends a chill up your spine.


What if you didn’t have to actually get face to face with that King Cobra, though? VR technology is priding itself on the fact that your experience will be seem so real that your brain and body will not be able to tell the difference. Our brain is trained to believe whatever our eyes, ears, and touch is telling us. If VR can simulate those three senses (or all 5 senses?), our brain should have the same visceral response to a virtual snake in front of our faces as we would normally have if a real snake was in front of us.

VR can give us the opportunity to face our fear of flying by simulating an airplane take-off, fear of spiders by putting you in an attic consumed with spider webs, or finally face that fear of snakes by allowing you to attempt to charm a virtual cobra with a virtual flute in virtual India.


Find Your Happy Place

Need to escape? Surrounded by chaos and feel like you have no where to go? Why don’t you go sit on the top of Mt. Everest? I’m sure it’s quiet up there. Don’t like the cold? There’s a spot on a beach in the Maldives waiting for you.


Life is tough. It’s a fast paced world and many of us feel tied down by work, family, and children. You wake up, you rush into the shower, you sit in traffic on the way to work, you work hard for 12 hours, sit in traffic on the way to the gym, work out, sit in traffic on the way home, cook dinner for your family, wash, rinse, repeat until eventually we snap and find ourselves in a concrete room with a enormous bunkmate named Tiny Tim.

Now picture that instead of going to bed at night, you decide to walk around the Eiffel tower for twenty minutes or you take a five-minute stroll on a black sand beach in Vik, Iceland. That much needed pressure release can come in the virtual world in which we escape our real, hectic, unrelenting lives to take a moment to kayak on the Mississippi river during sunset.


VR has potential to redefine the term meditation and change the way we take a moment for ourselves.


Reality?

I realize that the aforementioned scenarios certainly seem weird and wild to us now but this could be our future. I don’t know if it will be in one year, five years, or twenty years but what I do know is that Virtual Reality is going to give us the ability to explore the deepest corners of our imagination. The plank between what is possible and what is impossible is going to be warped.


Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, humans have ever invented was to make life easier. Virtual Reality is the next major leap in that direction. I predict huge advances in mental health treatments.


Of course, such a shift in the way humans live, experience pleasure, deal with grief, overcome social anxieties, and more will come with it’s own set of problems but oh well! Ready, Shoot, Aim…Let’s see what happens!