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With the increasing popularity of VR technology, some mental health professionals are using the alternate reality experience to help clients deal with real world issues.

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One psychologist by the name of Corrie Ackland is utilizing the VR approach to help treat patients with specific phobias. The overall goal is to manage a person’s anxiety by exposing them to images of common triggers (things like heights, spiders, snakes, etc). Through repeated exposure in a controlled environment, clients are able to better manage their responses to their intense fears.

Psychology shows that while phobias generally aren’t “curable”, they can be managed to give the person experiencing them more confidence when dealing with a particularly stressful situation.

Because VR experiences are all immersive and easily replicated, it’s easier for people with anxiety disorders to work on their fears in a gradual way, rather than all at once. Studies have shown that there is no major difference in treating most phobias in the virtual world versus real-life exposure.

In addition to phobias, VR technology is currently being trialed and used in treating other mental illnesses and conditions, ranging from PTSD and paranoia to anxiety and depression.

If you own a VR headset at home and are interested in trying this type of therapy on your own, it may help. However, researchers caution that for severe cases, you may still need a specialist to guide you in the right direction.

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