Some clients are non-responsive to other forms of therapy and interventions. With VRET the client feels like they are doing something rather than watching something. As such their emotional and behavioural responses resemble real life situations. They feel immersed and like an active participant in the computer generated, 3D world, as if it were real.
With VRET the therapist asks the client specific questions and creates specific events in the software. The client responds physically and emotionally enabling them to experience the ‘event’ or ‘phobia’ that is causing them distress in a virtual world as opposed to the real world. By doing so they are able to adapts to the stimulus and the fear response whilst learning new and effective ways of coping with the situation. This results in the negative reactions decreasing and not causing the client further distress in their lives.
Addictions in rehab and treatment centres
In terms of using VR experiences for addiction and relapse prevention the client can recognise and work through any potential triggers that will inevitably present themselves once they leave the safety of treatment. The cravings and triggers are experienced whilst in the safety of a treatment centre or rehab, which in turn prepares them for life outside of treatment. A typical ‘experience’ for an alcoholic may be a social event or work event they have to attend where alcohol will be present. The client experiences what that would be like in the ‘virtual experience’ and what feelings are associated, action tendencies, what thoughts or triggers they have and also learning how to self soothe and manage the situation without ‘picking up a drink’. They experience the event, the sounds, the scenery, the smell and atmosphere but in the safety of the therapist’s presence and guidance. Studies show VRET is just as effective as in-vivo exposure.
How many sessions would a client require of VRET
A client would require between 4-8 sessions depending on the condition they are working with. A session would last 1 hour, with the client spending a maximum of 20 minutes per session in the Headset. The client will be with the therapist at all times and they can hear and engage with the therapist whilst in the Headset.