Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy – May Be Ready for Prime Time

Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy – May Be Ready for Prime Time

“A New Way for Therapists to Get inside Heads; Virtual Reality” was published by the New York Times on 7-30-17. This article reports on a new Silicon Valley startup called Limbix, a company that bills itself as providing “modern treatment tools for therapists.” Limbix provides a “treatment dashboard” for therapists that enables them to assign work with their patients between appointments by providing assignments, thought records, guided meditations, and more.  It also provides a mobile app for patients which enables them to access their assignments.

Limbix claims that their services are backed up by research that supports the benefits of “virtual reality exposure therapy” and things that improve homework compliance between therapy appointments. The company also touts the benefits of their “feedback informed treatment” approach, which tracks progress with outcomes measures.

The full Limbix program requires a virtual reality kit that is compliant with the Google Daydream program. Limbix cells a version of this “at cost” for $449. It provides links to other compatible devices. The standard package of Limbix services is free for “small practice” providers. A higher level services, Limbix enterprise, is provided for a fee that sales staff will provide, and includes integration with DHR and custom virtual reality scenes and therapy assignments.

To get back to the New York Times article, it reviews the history of virtual reality and exposure therapy, an increasing body of research support for this type of treatment, and the benefits for the patient of being able to participate in therapy remotely.  This treatment is reported to be particularly effective for treating phobias, such as fear of flying, and PTSD. For PTSD, virtual reality treatment has the benefit of not relying solely on the patient’s imagination for facing their past traumas. Virtual reality exposure therapy potentially can allow patients more control over the pace and intensity of their exposure therapy. The article concludes, however, that virtual reality therapy can be potentially powerful and requires the guidance of a trained therapist. Several patients and their experiences with the Limbix program are described.

The full article is available for free online, but if you view more than a few articles on the NYT website you may have to either subscribe or pay a fee.

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