What is Virtual Reality Therapy?
Virtual Reality Therapy (VRT) is a highly effective form of exposure therapy that immerses the patient into a virtual environment from the safety of our office. 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. Some common phobias treated by VRT include:
Virtual Reality Therapy combined with biofeedback has success rates over 90% for phobias.
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.
Biofeedback Training Session.
What are the next steps?
Patients must first complete an initial consultation with Dr. Robert Reiner (Adults) or Dr. Heather Davidson (Children, Teens). After the initial consultation, you will be set up with one of our expert staff members based on your goals, availability and treatment type. Treatment may require you to complete an MMPI-2 personality test, qEEG brain scan or other psychological testing to fully understand your history and diagnosis. Same and next day appointments are typically available Monday through Thursday.
For those who are in need of rapid intervention, the initial consultation may be combined with the first Virtual Reality Training session to speed up results (please speak with the front desk).