Virtual Reality could pave the way for remotely delivering mental healthcare


According to a recent research, Virtual Reality (VR) could open a new window of opportunity to improve remotely delivered mental healthcare.

Virtual Reality (VR) could open multitudes of opportunities to improve remotely delivered mental healthcare, something which experts have been focusing on in recent years.

“Face-to-face” sessions are conducted in a virtual environment in using VR for remote therapy. For those living and working remotely, this method of treatment could make counselling more accessible.
It was discovered that VR-based therapy was more effective than Skype-based counselling, albeit face-to-face still remains the optimal method of treatment.

In a study, experiences of 30 participants aged between 21 and 63 were compared in both VR-based and Skype-based mock counselling sessions.

The therapists used the Oculus Go head-mounted display and vTime social networking app to deliver VR sessions.

The responses of the participants were compared in both the settings to determine which mode of therapy proved to be less stressful, more engaging, and overall preferred.

Participants responded much in favor of VR-based therapy on almost all accounts. High levels of engagement between the client and therapist were generated in the use of VR, without any feeling of sickness or stress.

The virtual experience was consistent among all the participants owing to the heightened sense of realism, almost as par with a face-to-face experience.

The VR avatar used in the study encouraged 22 out of the 30 participants to express themselves more freely without any fear. The responses were equal among both introvert and extrovert participants.

Around 7 million people live in rural and remote areas of Australia, most of whom don’t have access to face-to-face counselling, or require travelling long distances for it.

Counselling or physiotherapy is usually required by remote workers like mining and construction workers, who are at greater risk of mental problems.

Such individuals often work for long hours, are subjected to harsh climates, and in many cases live far from their families for long periods. In such circumstances, accessing quality mental healthcare can be particularly difficult.

Today, mobile and video conferencing are commonly used to remotely deliver telehealth sessions using applications such as Skype, Facetime, and Zoom. But the biggest challenge with this is keeping the patient motivated to commit to the treatment.

The problem is that the physical distance between the patient and the therapist prevents them from engaging freely. The context of engagement here is the patient’s willingness to fully disclose their problems and feelings.

A successful VR-based mental health program for delivering services to remote areas would have a far-reaching impact.

The primary focus of VR in clinical psychology and psychiatry until now has been confined to treating stress-related disorders and anxiety, phobias, and post-traumatic stress disorders.

Researchers plan to conduct clinical interviews via both VR and face-to-face methods and measure the participants’ physiological responses in the next phase of their research.

It is being hoped that further trials will bring us closer to delivering world-class VR-based therapy to people living and working remotely.