Using VR to treat mental health patients: 6 key study findings

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A study published Jan. 4 details the views of staff members working in the private mental health sector on therapeutic virtual reality. 

The study, published in Frontiers of Psychiatry, used qualitative interviews of 19 staff members, including clinicians and service managers, of a mental health hospital in Australia to gauge their opinions on advantages and barriers to implementing therapeutic AI.

Six key findings :

  1. The staff interviewed unanimously agreed that VR was a great tool to enhance patient engagement with treatment and was especially useful for patients who find traditional approaches difficult. 

  2. Thirteen of the respondents emphasized the need to prove the clinical efficacy of VR treatment to ensure its uptake by medical staff. Five staff members also questioned whether VR is as effective as traditional therapy. 

  3. VR was perceived as useful by 17 of the staff members for treating anxiety disorders, OCD, PTSD, eating disorders or addictions.

  4. Study participants expressed concerns about using VR for patients with psychotic and schizophrenic disorders, citing issues with reality testing. Some also said VR might not be appropriate for patients with cognitive and learning disabilities. 

  5. Sixteen respondents generally spoke positively about technology and pointed toward broad patient and staff interest. 

  6. However, some respondents said a fear of change and resistance to technology might stand in the way of full-scale adoption, with some staff members expressing concern about job security.

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