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Could Virtual Reality Replace Therapy?


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The term virtual-reality therapy is controversial: some say virtual reality is just a tool for the therapy, while others argue the virtual reality is the therapy itself.

Psychologists are assessing the use of virtual reality systems as a therapeutic tool for treating phobias and other disorders.

Credit: Leonard Beard

Psychologists are testing virtual reality (VR) systems as a therapeutic tool for phobias and disorders.

University of Oxford professor Daniel Freeman in the U.K. says there are few conditions VR cannot treat, "because...every mental health problem is about dealing with a problem in the real world, and VR can produce that troubling situation for you."

University College London professor Mel Slater cites VR's advantage of enabling users to transcend physical or discomfiting situations for therapeutic purposes.

People developing VR for therapy increasingly are dependent on the private sector to support their research, often starting their own businesses directly from their work.

Slater thinks VR therapy has a better chance of catching on now that technologies such as the Oculus Rift headset are becoming more affordable.

Meanwhile, Kate Anthony with the British Association for Counseling & Psychotherapy believes VR treatments should be prescribed only, as wide commercial availability carries the risk of compounding patients' conditions.

From The Guardian
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