Throughout the past decade, we as humans have enacted many changes to improve our living conditions, from a rise in climate change discussions to discussions on race and gender equality. One of the biggest shifts this past decade was the acceptance and destigmatization of mental health issues. Over the past few years, we have slowly and surely pushed forward the conversation of mental health awareness from discussions of work-life balance to detection and treatment of mental health-related medical issues. Existing treatments have been re-evaluated and new therapies developed tapping into the tech industry, to aid an ever-growing populace of people actively putting their mental health first. One such breakthrough is VR Therapy. In this article, we will break down this emerging technology looking at what it means for the world in general and its feasibility on the African continent.
What is VR Therapy and How does it work?Virtual reality therapy (VRT), also called virtual reality exposure therapy, allows the patient receiving the treatment to enter a virtual (simulated) world that is carefully constructed to increase their exposure to negative stimuli, so as to build resilience and emotional strength when placed in the real world. VRT makes use of a virtual world created by VR technology to put a patient in situations you can learn from. Previous iterations were simply programs loaded onto a computer, that a patient would work through, and based on the conditions sought to be treated. However, with the breakthrough of the VR headset, current therapies make extensive use of the complete immersion that is offered for a much-improved experience and treatment. Already the technology has been put to use in treatments for several conditions including:
- Fear of flying, public speaking, and spiders
- School phobia in children
- Eating disorders