Mental health professionals and students alike are continuously learning about the use cases and future applications of VR in mental health settings. With many technologies being used for mental illness treatments, VR differentiates itself with its ability to give clinicians control over treatments and its ability to provide real-time feedback. Although VR is used in many clinical settings today, the continuous improvement of its technologies will make it an invaluable tool for training and treatments for mental illnesses.
In regards to training with VR technologies, there are specific programs and courses that are available for mental health students and professionals. Some of the American Psychological Association’s approved virtual training tools include:
The Online Therapy Institute: The Online Therapy Institute is one of the premier companies that have integrated VR with mental health services. They offer a variety of certificates, programs, and courses depending on the education of the enrolled student.
Metaverse+: Metaverse+ is a free organization and website run by psychologists and it focuses on the research and development aspects of VR in mental health. This organization focuses on learning about VR studies and figuring out how they can be applied in clinical settings.
These are just a few of the APA approved mental health VR training programs. Many universities and hospitals are launching their own VR training programs for their students and health professionals, but they are pending APA approval and accreditation.
In training settings, VR has several use cases for mental health professionals. Some of the main use cases include:
Patient Interaction Training: For many mental health students, their first interactions with patients suffering from mental illnesses occurs in a clinic setting. This may be very difficult for students to rapidly adjust on the fly in their first meetings with patients. VR enables students to get ample patient interaction training prior to meeting their first real patient. With VR, patient actions can be simulated and students will know how to react when a similar instance occurs in a clinic setting.
Onboarding & training: Many clinics and hospitals spend significant capital on onboarding and training employees in their workplace. With VR, these costs can be significantly reduced while improving outcomes. Oftentimes, employees will need time onboarding and training before being thrust into a highly stressful environment. VR provides a safe environment for employees to test out their skills prior to engaging with real patients.
Disaster Training: Clinics and hospitals nationwide require a variety of disaster training for mental health professionals. The disaster training programs that are used today are not comprehensive. Although these programs aim to prepare mental health professionals for difficult situations, they are a far cry from actual disasters. This is where VR exhibits its prowess. For example, disaster training often includes active shooter response training. VR can simulate an almost identical situation to a real-life scenario. Mental health professionals who complete these VR training programs will have tangible and practical skills in the case of an actual emergency.
Although VR has many training implementations, the treatment opportunities are endless. VR already has significant treatment use cases and the continuous improvements in VR technologies provide numerous future treatments. VR is a powerful tool for mental health professionals because it provides them more control over the treatment of their patients while providing key insights that were previously unavailable.
With VR, mental health professionals can control different parameters in the treatment of their patients. This ability allows treatment plans to be customized to each patient individually. With controlled variables for patient treatments, mental health professionals can target a mental illness and see exactly how a patient responds to treatment.
Many VR treatments give mental health professionals insightful reports and data that can improve patient outcomes. The data is provided by the immediate biofeedback when a patient is using the VR headset. Biofeedback helps quantify things like stress levels, heart rate, etc. This gives clinicians automatic feedback on how a patient is responding to treatment and the findings can be used to further improve treatments in the future. The reports provided by VR headsets will provide crucial data and can be used as learning resources for colleagues and students.
Common/general treatments: VR can have a tremendous impact on patients when it comes to treating common mental illnesses. One of the biggest hurdles in mental health treatments for the public is the cost. Since mental illnesses aren’t as apparent as physical illnesses, people tend to avoid going in for treatment unless it’s urgent. VR helps reduce the cost of treatments in clinics. Since many VR headsets only cost a few hundred dollars and can help in the treatment of many conditions, the treatment costs will be lower. This incentivizes the public to come in and get treatment for any mental issues they are experiencing.
Full immersion therapy: VR differentiates itself from other real-world treatments because it has the ability to recreate specific situations that can help patients overcome mental illnesses. In the APA’s journal Monitor on Psychology, full immersion therapy is discussed as a viable option to treat patients with illnesses like anxiety, phobias, PTSD, and more. Researchers today have already acknowledged that full immersion therapy is the best method to treat mental illnesses like anxiety and PTSD. VR allows patients to overcome mental obstacles in a controlled and safe environment.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy: VR is one of the best methods to help patients that are going through cognitive behavioral therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is used for patients that are experiencing difficulties like addiction, pain, and autism. Cognitive-behavioral therapy enables patients to tackle high-risk situations in controlled settings. VR amplifies this by giving mental health professionals access to controlling and using simulated situations to help patients overcome their fears. This can also help patients fight against triggers, cues, and overcome cravings.
How can WM Interactive help?
Whether you are looking for a custom VR application for training or therapeutic purposes, WM Interactive’s experienced team of designers and developers can work closely with your organization to ensure your virtual reality experience is exactly to specifications. Our careful design approach and multi-platform development approach means less frustration to users while allowing for compatibility across a wide variety of VR setups. If you are looking for an expert educational VR development team to bring your experience to life, on time and on budget, contact us today.