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Virtual Reality for Behavioral Health
Therapy and Support

Podcast: VR Therapy Now and in the Future

Great conversation with A Fine Time for Healing podcast host Randi Fine this morning. We were joined by XRHealth‘s Dr. Orit Avni-Barron to discuss various applications of Virtual Reality (VR) for behavioral health. The hour flew by and we covered a lot of ground.

The podcast was broadcasted live and will be archived here as well as on Apple Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Stitcher, Podbean, Podbay, TuneIn, Player FM, Podchaser, Listen Notes, Castbox, Podfanatic, and Ivoox.

Therapy and Support

How VR can fight addiction through remote human connection.

A recent article in the New York Times highlights the particular challenges of addiction treatment during the pandemic. The article contends that, at its core, addiction is often fueled by feelings of isolation and disconnectedness and the inability for people to meet together and with clinicians and facilitators has lead many to relapse or worse.

How could Virtual Reality (VR) help? The article highlights several areas where the feeling of presence, focus, and connectedness afforded by VR could lessen the feeling of being alone and more closely represent the therapeutic benefits of in-person interactions.

A Shared Experience

Excerpt from NYT Article: “In the 80-year history since addiction treatment began, we’ve never experienced anything as challenging as this,” said Marvin Ventrell, chief executive of the N.A.A.T.P. “You have to put people in social settings to heal, and Covid conspires against that.”

VR replicates the feeling of being physically together with other people. Everyone in a VR environment sees the same thing as everyone else just as they would if they were sitting together in a shared space. If you and I look out the window to our left, we will see the same scene regardless of where we may be in the real world. This is in sharp contrast to video calls where participants are stacked together in boxes, each in their own world, with no common point of view or ability to truly share in the same experience; a situation that can actually lead to greater feelings of isolation.

Avatars that Emote

Excerpt from NYT Article: “What is more supportive than walking into a room and seeing a human you can touch?” asked one client, Maureen. “What’s been missing is body language, our ability to hug each other. All that stuff is important when people are going through the difficult experience of getting off drugs or alcohol.”

The feeling of proximity in VR is unlike any other digital medium. Lifelike avatars can gesture, point, fist bump, high five, and even hug resulting in sensory feedback (haptics) through the controller. Objects like balls can be passed between people sitting in natural relation to one another and spatial audio allows for more authentic conversation flow. Though VR is not an ultimate substitute for physical human interactions, it is as close as we have to that sensation and, with continuing improvements to avatar expressions, movements, and haptics, the line will only blur further between mind and virtual body.

Focused, Distraction-free

Excerpt from NYT Article: “Many of our clients were riddled with fear and anxiety,” said Rose Foley, who runs mental health services for a Hazelden Betty Ford center in Chelsea, Manhattan. “I remember working with clients and hearing the sounds of sirens from outside their apartments. It was a traumatic time.”

Group and one-on-one video sessions are prone to both technical and situational intrusions. For those seeking help, these distractions can be frustrating and can adversely affect the healing process as they break the sense of connection and togetherness. VR headsets are self-contained units that block out visual and auditory interference. Since everyone is using the same device, the experience is consistent among all participants which leads to a more focused sessions in environments designed to induce a sense of calmness and safety.

Accessibility Meets Control Over Identity

Excerpt from NYT Article: Some positives have come from virtual care. John Driscoll, head of recovery services at Hazelden Betty Ford, said the number of patients choosing to attend sessions biweekly has doubled. The organization’s recovery program for families, which used to be local, is now on video and open to families around the globe, serving more than 2,500 people since the summer.

If there is a sliver lining in the challenges of the last year, it is that access to and utilization of telebehavioral health has increased dramatically. While in-person treatment may still be ideal, the ease of joining remote sessions has reduced barriers and stigmas to those seeking help who otherwise might not have tried. Though not yet as omnipresent as smartphones and laptops, VR offers the same ability to connect with anyone around the globe but with the added advantage that those who wish to remain off camera or anonymous are not left feeling excluded. VR creates a level social playing field where identity is fully in the hands of the participant at any stage of the process. This allows people to explore treatments before committing and removes the self-consciousness that comes with appearing on camera throughout the treatment process.

Beyond Four Walls or a Screen

As the vaccine rollout gains traction and we are eventually able to return to our normal lives, there will still be a prominent role for VR in addiction treatment in the following capacities:

  • Remote Treatment: Even when the pandemic ends, there will be many people who seek remote treatment for a variety of reasons (affordability, accessibility, anonymity).
  • Ongoing support: Those who have left a treatment center can continue to meet with peers and with counselors in a familiar shared space.
  • New treatment models: Role play, withdrawal distraction, and exposure therapy both outside and within centers can offer alternatives to traditional treatments.

At Foretell Reality, we work with our partners to develop behavioral health applications that bring patients and clinicians together in VR environments for connection and healing. Both now and into the future, we see a tremendous opportunity to work with addiction treatment centers and facilitators to help those in need of connection and care.

Therapy and Support

Dr. Asher Marks Highlights Healing Benefits of VR in Peer Review Publication

“For patients with physical disabilities or social anxieties that prevent them from participating in support groups, VR provides the opportunity to connect with others and build strong social support networks.”

The above excerpt is from a recently published article under peer review in the Journal of Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology by our partner at Yale School of Medicine, Dr. Asher Marks. Dr. Marks.

In the article, Dr. Marks also discusses the benefits of VR for other areas of physical and behavioral health such as pain distraction, social interaction augmentation, and prolonged isolation.

“During situations requiring quarantine or isolation, such as the COVID-19 pandemic or bone marrow transplant, VR has been seen as a way to cope with the deleterious effects of prolonged isolation,” states Dr. Marks citing another recent study.

Foretell Reality has worked closely with Dr. Marks to develop VR support groups for adolescent cancer patients. This article marks another milestone in the advancement and adoption of the technology to make a real difference in areas of both mental and physical health.

Subscribers to the journal can read more here:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33296259/

Therapy and Support

Foretell Highlighted in BHB

“On top of improving retention, VR can help providers improve treatment itself. For example, Foretell Reality often sees more genuine responses from patients when using VR, according to Dror Goldberg, General Manager of Foretell Reality.”

Thanks to Bailey Bryant of Behavioral Health Business for including us in her piece about the potential of VR to “change the game” of behavioral health.

Read the article here.

Collaboration, Tech

$4.5b VR Forecast Despite Challenges

Foretell Reality powers remote support groups for XRHealth, one of the innovative companies highlighted in this recent ABIresearch forecast of the 2020 Virtual Reality (#VR) market.

With the market expected to grow to $4.6b by the end of the year, declines in revenues from location-based VR due to COVID-19 are being made up for by in-home and enterprise solutions for training, learning, and physical and mental healthcare.

“companies such as XRHealth operating within the immersive healthcare sector have seen accelerated growth opportunities as patients seek alternatives to in-person meetings and sessions (e.g., physical and/or mental health therapy).”

Foretell Reality powers life-like experiences for XRHealth along with other companies and institutions for applications including therapy and support, soft skills development, and business collaboration.

#mentalhealth#virtualreality#digitalhealth

https://lnkd.in/gtYu429
Tech, Therapy and Support

VR Support Group Pilot: “Very Encouraging”

We have had the pleasure of working with Dr. Asher Marks over many months on a pilot program that provides Virtual Reality (VR) support groups to patients in the Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Oncology clinic at Yale New Haven Hospital.

With the pilot nearing its end, Dr. Marks has published an article highlighting the role of VR in telepsychiatry including the specific benefits of VR support groups. Below are some key takeaways:

  1. Telephone and video conferencing fall short when it comes to “sharing a therapeutic physical space, being able to communicate via non-verbal cues, and being able to interact without distraction,”
  2. Of all immersive technologies, VR is the most “mature, available, and studied.”
  3. Availability of consumer ready headsets over the past year “has greatly expanded VR’s potential to be incorporated into telehealth and telepsychiatry.”
  4. Early hurdles to leveraging VR included ensuring physical and emotional safety, infection control measures, and the ability to collaborate with rapid tech industry timelines.
  5. Initial findings of the pilot program are “very encouraging.”
  6. After this pilot has concluded, “the intention is to move forward with a larger, multi-institutional Phase 2 trial assessing risks and benefits of VR based support groups as compared to other viable solutions to the remote care problem.”
  7. Though the population for this pilot was younger and therefore more comfortable with new technologies, another pilot showed the viability VR support groups for older patients dealing with grief.

Read the full article here.

Foretell Reality is an enterprise VR solution for interpersonal communication and business collaboration. Learn more here.

Therapy and Support, Uncategorized

Mayo Clinic Guide to Support Groups

This recent article from the Mayo Clinic is a great resource for those considering joining a support group. It provides succinct information including benefits, risks, questions to ask, and the pros and cons of online versus in-person sessions.

Through our secure platform, Foretell Reality brings a higher degree of focus, presence, and anonymity to online support groups through Virtual Reality (VR) environments designed to foster meaningful therapeutic connections.

One example is our partner XRHealth who is bringing patients together with similar ailments in moderated VR support groups to discuss their experiences, treatments, and challenges.

With more people feeling isolated and alone, support groups can provide comfort and connections that improve mood and as sense of purpose and belonging.

Foretell Reality is an enterprise VR solution for interpersonal communication and business collaboration. Learn more here.

Collaboration, Therapy and Support

Collaborative Data Analysis: Foretell Reality and D6

https://www.d6vr.io/

D6 develops tools to support multi-dimensional data visualization in Virtual Reality (VR). The platform allows analysts and others to visualize and manipulate complex data in 3D space, deriving insights that are faster, more powerful, and more memorable.

Through an integration with Foretell Reality, D6 was able to turn its single-user experience into one that allows shared data visualization workspaces in which clients and colleagues around the globe can present, discuss, and manipulate multidimensional graphs and charts as a group.

In addition to these shared data visualization spaces, D6’s “Hyperdesk” frees teams of remote analysts from the limits of a physical workspace. Colleagues can move between multiple customizable “Data Rooms,” with unlimited virtual monitor space, and integration of both traditional keyboard/mouse and hand gesture inputs.

As demonstrated by D6, collaboration in virtual reality not only overcomes geographic constraints, but even the limitations imposed by the physical world. Where else can remote team members collectively analyze three-dimensional data or view multiple screens at once while truly feeling like they are in the presence of their colleagues?

Foretell Reality is an enterprise VR solution for interpersonal communication and business collaboration. Learn more here

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