Virtual reality therapy is the use of computer-produced situations to
make you believe and feel as though you are actually in a different place and
situation. You may wear a helmet or goggles that contain a small video screen
through which you see computer-produced images. When you move your head, the
images on the screen change as they would in real life.
During virtual reality therapy, you can confront a feared object or
situation or traumatic event while staying in a safe and comfortable place. A
counselor helps you talk about your feelings and thoughts throughout the
experience, encourages you, and offers suggestions to help you deal with the
situation or event. You will gradually be able to deal with the emotional and
physical distress you feel and learn to handle your thoughts and
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Virtual reality therapy has been successfully used to help people
Exaggerated fears (phobias). You can use virtual
reality to confront a feared object or situation. For example, if you have a
fear of heights, you can "virtually" walk across a bridge and look over the
side, knowing all the time that you are still in a safe room.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You can use
virtual reality to relive a traumatic event. For example, you can confront
reminders of the traumatic event and talk about the emotional distress you
experienced at the time of the event. It can also be used to safely experience and prevent potential problems from events that can have long-term trauma, such as war.
Some virtual reality therapy programs help with depression, quitting smoking, decreasing pain, sleeping better, and drug or alcohol addiction.