Technology as Therapy

by | Mar 10, 2019 | Technology

Did you know technology can be used in therapy to help people deal with fears? Or help with meditation or relaxation? Or even to help distract people from pain?

Today, technology is being blamed for increasing social isolation, lowering communication skills, decreasing attention spans, and even inciting violence. With a rise in people being encouraged to have a break from technology, its no wonder it has taken this long for it to be revealed that technology can actually help some people.


Psychologists have now started to use Virtual Reality (VR) equipment as part of therapy to help clients overcome anxiety and phobias. With over 20 years of research, VR Therapy has had positive outcomes and has improved traditional therapy in many ways.

Over the years, psychologists have found it challenging to treat phobias because of its difficulty to recreate the specific feared environment.  With VR technology, gaps in treatment have been filled, and a graded exposure program can be delivered in a virtual world, undertaken all within a safe therapeutic environment.

VR therapy allows for people to learn to respond to the feared stimuli, without the mind and body becoming over alerted before the person faces their fears in the real world. At any time during the exposure in a virtual world, if a person becomes very anxious, relaxation or diaphragmatic breathing can be introduced while in the virtual world, to help the client practise coping strategies before experiencing their fears in reality.

What disorders can it be used for?

VR Therapy can be used for many disorders including fears, test anxiety, pain management, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders and many other disorders. The fears that can be treated include, but are not limited to, fear of flying, fear of driving, fear of needles, fear of public speaking, fear of bugs, fear of heights, and agoraphobia.

VR Therapy can also be used to help with relaxation, mindfulness, and stress management.

How does it work?

An assessment is completed on the suitability of the client for Virtual Reality Therapy, and if assessed as suitable, the exposure component of the Cognitive Behaviour Program is delivered in a virtual world. 

The client will still engage in therapy verbally before and after the virtual exposure program, to put things into perspective, and will still have to complete out of sessions tasks.

What equipment is used?

A VR headset, software from a mobile platform, and a computer program managed by a psychologist are used to deliver the treatment. During exposure, physiological responses are measured with biofeedback sensors to monitor and track the progress of the client.

The psychology clinic at Dr Olga Lavalle & Associates is the first to provide Virtual Reality Therapy in the Illawarra, using the Psious VR technology and platform.

So, next time you start getting anxious because you know you have to get on a flight, get a needle, or face some other feared situation, why not try some VR Therapy? For further information, please contact the psychology clinic on 02 42445636.

Written by Olga Lavalle

Olga is registered as a Clinical Psychologist with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. She provides psychological services under Medicare, is an Employee Assistance Program provider and an approved WorkCover NSW provider. Additionally, Olga consults to workplace and community sporting organisations.

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