Virtual Reality Therapy
Virtual Reality is one the most effective ways to offer best practices to patients suffering with specifics internal issues that are causing fears, anxiety and lack of mindfulness. The application of VR Therapy allows a patient to interact with environments in between in vivo and imaginal exposure, improving the flow and outcomes of exposure therapy.
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.
Multicultural CBT-DBT, LLC is one of the few practitioners in the New York City area offering VRT, the gold standard for anxiety and phobia management.
What is Virtual Reality Therapy?
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.
More Effective Therapy / More Committed Patients
More than 20 years of controlled studies have shown the effectiveness of VR in the treatment of anxiety disorders, achieving better results than traditional exposure therapy based only on imaginal and in vivo exposure.
Interactive, immersive virtual environments allow the patient to be the protagonist of their therapy, helping to reduce psychological barriers to treatment, increasing their trust and the therapeutic alliance and maintaining their confidentiality.
Areas this Device can help with:
Fear of Animals
Fear of Needles
Fear of public speaking
Fear of Driving
Fear of Flying
Fear of Darkness
Virtual Reality Therapy to support Fear of Flying
VR for Aviophobia
Anyone who suffers from a “fear of flying” has most likely heard that the car ride to the airport is far more dangerous than the flight itself. However, because phobias are often unrelated to reasoning and fact, it is typically extremely difficult for a “phobic” person to be rational in relation to the feared object or situation. After all, the anxiety generated by the phobia is a physical manifestation of the anxiety that causes the symptoms common to people with the phobia.
As the Flying Psychotherapist dba. Multicultural CBT-DBT, LLC., I have been treating patients suffering from a fear of flying for many years both in my practice and also as having been a Flight Attendant for over 22 years.
The VR "In-Flight" Experience
The Virtual Reality Therapy (VRT) immerses the patient into a virtual commercial airline flight 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 entire flying experience.
During the treatment, the therapist maintains control of the details of the simulated flight thereby allowing exposure to the portions of the flight that create the most anxiety (e.g. take-off, landing, turbulence or even a thunder storm). while the patient is encouraged to practice the “skills” they have been taught to induce deep relaxation during these times of high anxiety.
The idea behind the therapy is that when a person learns to change their physiological response during the virtual experience, with practice, they generalize these newly acquired skills to make the same changes in real life.
Virtual Reality Therapy (VRT) has a success rate exceeding 90 percent for those suffering with a fear of flying.
Fight or Flight
The Virtual Reality Therapy includes “biofeedback” which allows the therapist and client to see how they are physiologically responding to stress by monitoring heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, blood flow and even brainwaves through the various phases of flight. The therapist uses the biofeedback monitors to make patients aware of their reactions during the virtual flight and ultimately teach them how to better control these responses.
Biofeedback is extremely effective in teaching the benefits of “abdominal breathing” because it gives a true understanding of the body’s response to proper breathing and how proper breathing can actually relax the body.
The client is therefore 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 which reduces the feeling of anxiety. Once the correct breathing pattern is learned it can be practiced in conjunction with the virtual reality experience and then ultimately during an actual flight.
How I Work...
Sessions will begin at the office and slowly incorporate “in-vivo” exposure, which is, placing the client in real life scenarios such as going to the airport listening to aircraft taking off and landing and eventually getting on a real flight with me, your therapist.
My goal is to provide you with the opportunity to eventually enjoy being in the sky as much as I do!