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Virtual Reality Therapy (VRT)

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Virtual Reality Therapy (VRT) combined with biofeedback is proven highly effective in helping patients overcome phobias with a success rate exceeding 90%. Treatment typically lasts 12-16 weeks requiring just one 45 minute weekly session.

Behavioral Associates is one of the few practitioners in the New York City area offering VRT, the gold standard for anxiety and phobia management. Dr. Reiner’s work with VRT has been featured in many media sources including the National Geographic Show, FOX news and The New York Times.

What is Virtual Reality Therapy (VRT)? 

VRT is a form of exposure therapy that immerses the patient into a virtual environment using a head mounted display with a 3-D image similar to those used for virtual reality games.  It creates a visual, auditory and sensory environment that psychologically exposes the patient to the feared object or activity (e.g. flying in an airplane or speaking in front of a large group of people). The therapist maintains control of the entire experience thereby allowing exposure to the portions of the experience that create the most anxiety.

How is VRT combined with biofeedback?

In order to reduce anxiety, the VRT experience must be paired with a tool for inducing relaxation. The idea is that if a person can change their psychological state during the virtual experience, with practice, they can be taught to make the same change in real life.

Biofeedback allows the patient to see how they are physiologically responding to stress by monitoring heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, blood flow and even brainwaves. The therapist uses biofeedback monitors to make patients aware of their reactions during the virtual exposure and ultimately teach them how to control these responses.

RSA training, also known as heart rate variability biofeedback is extremely effective in teaching the benefits of abdominal breathing because it gives a true understanding of how the body responds to the way we breathe and how our breathing can actually make us more relaxed or more nervous. The patient is taught a breathing technique (deep belly breathing at a rate of 5-7 breaths per minute) that synchronizes respiration with heartbeat to produce sinus arrhythmia, a state in which it impossible to feel anxiety. Once the patient has learned the correct breathing they will be able to practice it in conjunction with the virtual reality experience, then without the biofeedback monitor and eventually to control anxiety in real life situations.

Contact us or call our office at (212) 860-8500 to learn if Virtual Reality Therapy is the right treatment for you.

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