Speaking with a therapist or social worker over video has become much more commonplace over the past two years for obvious reasons. The experience, though not perfect, provides for ‘face-to-face’ communication, albeit in two-dimensional space, and it addresses the need for remote treatment which is critical.
The same cannot be said when it comes to group therapy and support. The Brady Bunch style grid of faces on a flat screen simply does not work well when it comes to facilitating open and natural group conversation.
Virtual Reality offers an alternative to video, one that realistically mimics a group setting and the dynamics of group interactions in three dimensions rather than two. Not only that, features such as personalized avatars, shared customizable environments, and moderator controls provide certain benefits not possible online and even with in-person groups.
Below are examples of five groups where VR offers specific benefits over video.
People with the same rare diseases and their families face many unique challenges including physical limitations, lack of information, and the ongoing emotional toll of living with uncertainty. Support groups in VR offer an alternative to having to be on camera whatever condition you may be in. Everyone in the group appears as a playful though expressive avatar adding levity to difficult conversations. And VR is an amazing tool for sharing information whether it is videos, websites, or even 3D models and 360 videos related to a particular condition.
Anonymity is critical to many people seeking recovery, particularly for those who may be well known in their profession or community. This dissuades many people from seeking the support of others. VR allows complete anonymity through an avatar and voice masking while also providing the feeling of shared presence that is core to the support group experience.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
Group sessions are one of the main activities in DBT therapy. Each session follows curriculum developed by clinicians and lead by trained therapists. Sessions can cover concepts like distress tolerance, acceptance, and mindful awareness and involve sharing of videos and other materials as well as role play. VR is a very powerful tool for mindfulness exercises and it has often been called the ’empathy machine’ for its ability to change ingrained attitudes and behavior.
We wrote a recent blog post about the challenges and opportunities social VR presents for the LGBTQ+ community. Safe, secure support groups lead by either a peer, social worker, or clinician offer an alternative to those who want to remain anonymous but also still feel viscerally connected to others. Avatars also offer a unique opportunity to explore identity and empowerment without the constraints and limitations of real world appearances.
Autism is a spectrum disorder meaning it affects everyone differently. Adults and children with autism may have varying levels of challenge with behavior, social skills, verbal and non-verbal communication, and sensory and attention issues. A tailored group experience in VR lead by a trained therapist offers a focused and controlled experience not possible online. Spaces specifically designed to feel calming and comfortable can also allow for practicing social skills and interpersonal communication through avatar role play. Similarly, the anonymity afforded by an avatar facilitates open conversation and provides an avenue to explore facial expressions and gestures.
Foretell Reality is a social VR platform that provides safe spaces for therapy and support, soft skills development, and other interpersonal activities like real time collaboration and group events. Please visit our website for more information or to schedule a demo.