Virtual Reality as Therapy
Virtual reality lets an individual interact in real time with a three-dimensional, computer-simulated environment. Therapy patients of often feel safer in a virtual reality environment, which can be more confidential and less costly than conventional settings, while giving the therapist more control. Some studies have shown that, for several psychological disorders, virtual reality treatment and prevention are just as effective as those delivered in a conventional setting.
Dr. Stéphane Bouchard, Canada Research Chair in Clinical Cyberpsychology, is studying the effectiveness of treating anxiety disorders in a virtual reality setting. To better understand the therapeutic tools at work in this setting, he is testing whether people with anxiety disorders can change the mental representations encoded in their memory, leading to more effective psychotherapy treatment.
Bouchard has already proven that telepsychotherapy is an effective treatment for agoraphobia and panic disorder, and he is now studying the effectiveness of treating anxiety disorders through distance treatment programs like video-conferencing.
Bouchard’s research will enable him to identify the factors that influence cyberpsychology therapeutic processes, reduce the costs of dedicated virtual environments for therapeutic purposes, and to give more people access to this kind of psychological treatment.