How VR Can Help You Conquer Your Fears
How VR Can Help You Conquer Your Fears
4:46

How VR Can Help You Conquer Your Fears

Tech
Speaker 1: When you think about virtual reality, you probably think about video games, but some therapists and psychologists have also been using it for exposure therapy. First, what is exposure therapy? It's a type of therapy that exposes you to stimuli that can cause distress, but in a safe environment, the idea is to break the pattern of fear and avoidance through repeated exposure. Virtual reality makes it possible to expose yourself [00:00:30] to certain scenarios virtually, like an airplane or the top of a tall building, which is why psychologists like Dr. Howard Ger, find it to be effective for treating certain phobias, Speaker 2: By asking them to kind of use their imagination and sit there and think about a situation that was, uh, threatening or scary to them was very difficult, right? And VR solved that problem. So VR provides them with all the information they need so that they don't have to think about it, it's it's given to them, and then we can use [00:01:00] the VR as a tool to enhance exposure therapy. Speaker 1: I contacted Dr. Gu so that I could try it out for myself and even after our brief demo, I can understand why VR can be helpful for decreasing anxiety and addressing phobias. Dr. Guer uses virtual reality software from a company called Amelia Virtual Care. Simply download the Amelia app on your phone and pop your device into a cheap VR headset and you're ready to go. The software is meant to [00:01:30] be used under the supervision of a therapist, so you'll need to work with a mental health professional to use the software. Dr. Ger and I conducted our session over Zoom, and you also don't need an expensive VR headset like the $400 Oculus Quest two, to access Amelia's virtual environments. For example, I ordered this VR headset on Amazon from a company called Be Nextt for less than $20. It essentially serves as a holder for your smartphone That turns it into a virtual reality headset. Speaker 1: [00:02:00] Dr. Ger walked me through several different virtual environments designed to help address phobias, including fear of heights. During my simulation, I rode a virtual outdoor elevator to the top of a skyscraper. I don't have a fear of heights, but I could definitely understand how this could feel anxiety inducing for someone who does. But Amelia does offer a virtual environment that addresses some of my actual phobias, such as a fear of driving. I [00:02:30] hate driving. It's always made me nervous, and I've been living in New York City for the past decade, which means I've been able to avoid it. So I tried getting behind the wheel in virtual reality to see if it would help. Of course, it would take more than one brief session to fully address my phobia and hitting the road virtually is no substitute for the real thing. My simulation was animated and I didn't have a physical steering wheel or a gas pedal. Speaker 1: It felt more like I was along for the ride since there was no [00:03:00] way for me to accelerate brake or choose when to merge into a different lane, but it was still immersive enough to provoke some nervous reactions. For example, I experienced that familiar pang in my stomach when I noticed a truck approaching in my side mirror. I felt compelled to keep my eyes on the road, even though I knew I wasn't in a real car. I didn't even turn around to notice that there were other passengers in the backseat. Until a few minutes in, I [00:03:30] just realized there was a person sitting next to me, <laugh>, and people in the backseat, <laugh>, Speaker 2: Wow, I could empty the car too. Isn't Speaker 1: No, no, that's, that's great. The pouring rain and the sounds of trucks and cars zipping by almost made me forget I was sitting in my office. In addition to these scenarios, Amelia also offers mindfulness environments to treat anxiety and other conditions. This transports the user to a calming space like a beautiful landscape, and then walks them through relaxation exercises. Another advantage that [00:04:00] comes with VR is that therapists can actually tailor the situation to the patient or client's needs. For example, if a person with a fear of flying is particularly afraid of the takeoff and landing process, therapists like Dr. Gu can use VR to focus on just that. Speaker 2: In a plane, you'd have one off and one landed, and if people flew infrequently like every couple of months or so, then that would happen very infrequently. But I could have someone take off and land [00:04:30] multiple times in a day. Speaker 1: Would you try VR to conquer your fears? Let me know in the comments, and don't forget to keep following CNET to catch more of our VR coverage. Thanks for watching, and I'll see you next time.

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