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Foretell Reality and XRHealth to Provide VR Support Groups

Foretell Reality, a Glimpse Group subsidiary, has partnered with XRHealth to provide Virtual Reality (VR) support groups to help patients with similar ailments, including people in isolation. The service will launch on April 1st, and is covered by Medicare and most major insurance providers in various states and cities across the US.

The experience replicates that of a real-world support group session. Participants will select a specific support group to attend, customize their virtual appearance as an avatar, and join a circle of up to 8 participants in a zen-like virtual room (see photo). A trained moderator will guide the session and participants will interact through gestures and voice in a life-like, three-dimensional environment.

“We’ve learned that one of the key benefits of virtual reality for support and therapy is the focus it brings to interactions between individuals and groups. The lack of distractions combined with a immersive and realistic environment that surrounds and shared by all participants, while they are physically located afar from each other, is conducive to a highly engaging discussion that is not replicable through other means of remote communications (e.g., video or chat). We also see that the self representation through an avatar helps patients to overcome the initial hesitation of sharing personal information and expose their emotions,” says Dror Goldberg, GM of Foretell Reality.

Noting the current situation many people find themselves in, Goldberg goes on to say that “the ability for a diverse group of people to share experiences and information in an immersive, focused environment will help provide a feeling of comfort in the face of fear and isolation.  Group empathy and understanding are instrumental to our well being and virtual reality provides a tangible feeling of group presence. This is even more acute when people are remote from each other and cannot gather in-person for various reasons – from physical limitations to forced isolation like we unfortunately experience now with this pandemic outburst.”

Anyone who is a patient of XRHealth Virtual Clinic can attend the offered virtual reality support groups. XRHealth Virtual clinic is listed in over 17 states already. The process of joining XRHealth clinic is described here and includes the following stages:

Step 1: Eligibility check and equipment signup. Step 2: Live video kickoff with a clinician. Step 3: 90 days treatment program consisting of personalized VR training, progress reports, and live video check-ups with a clinician. Once an XRHealth patient, user is able to select the application “Connect by Foretell Reality” from the VRHealth application installed on their VR device and join a support group room that they have been scheduled for.

Therapy and Support

Promising Results for VR Cancer Support Group

A joint study between Foretell Reality and Yale School of Medicine that compares VR support groups for cancer patients to traditional group therapy is starting to show some promising results according to a recent article published by MJH Life Sciences.

Ranging in age from 13-30 years old, patients have the ability to share their experiences in a safe and accessible setting without the need to travel back and forth to hospitals where they may be susceptible to infection, physical discomfort, and social unease.

Early indications are that the benefits above, as well as the option to remain anonymous, may reduce levels of anxiety and depression creating more open and meaningful interactions and communication between participants.

VR support groups also open the door to patients in underserved rural areas where travel is prohibitive and the lack of local groups can cause a feeling of isolation during a time when connection can be vital to the healing process.

Foretell Reality GM Dror Goldberg sees this study as the beginning of a paradigm shift in how VR is viewed. “There is plenty of news and case studies about VR and gaming and VR for the enterprise, but we are most interested in the ability for VR to facilitate real human connection by lowering physical and social barriers to one-to-one and group interactions. Seeing the early results of this study is exciting and a great motivator to continue to improve and add additional tools to the social experience in VR for support and therapy patients of all ages.”

As behavioral tele-health gains traction and the accessibility of VR continues to rise, studies like this one should propel large health organizations and insurers to offer VR solutions, like those from Foretell Reality, to patients who would benefit from an experience that is more lifelike and interactive than video or chat.

Therapy and Support

The Case for Kermit

I recently came across a series of interviews of people speaking openly and honestly about very personal challenges and traumas in their lives. A boy seeked solace about being bullied at school, a teenager told her story about being sent to a foster home, and an elderly man reconciled reaching the end of his life.

It wasn’t just their candor or the fact that millions of people viewed these videos on YouTube that struck me. It was that all the interviews were conducted in virtual reality with the interviewees veiled as avatars (one as Kermit the Frog).

Studies show that people are drawn to VR because it provides a feeling of authenticity while facilitating open communication in ways akin to real world interactions. This combined with the ability to move beyond physical appearances, remain anonymous if desired, and connect with people from all walks of life have resulted in more and more young people and adults spending time in highly immersive social VR worlds. And it is in these worlds that some of these same people are opening up and risking being vulnerable in ways they likely would not in a physical setting.

As an indicator of where social VR is heading, Facebook, which acquired Oculus in 2014, recently announced that it will be launching a social VR platform called ‘Horizon’ in 2020. Horizon will allow anyone with a stand-alone Oculus headset to customize avatars, socialize through voice and gestures, play games, and create and share user generated content. Given the sheer reach of Facebook, Horizon will vastly expand the number of friends using VR to connect and communicate. While this will accelerate adoption of social VR overall, it will leave behind those people who want to maintain their anonymity, and it will not address the need for safe, secure environments where those seeking help can receive it from professionals and support groups.

So why should this matter to the healing community? As VR becomes an integral part of the digital landscape much like audio, chat, and video is today, therapists and facilitators have an opportunity to reach those seeking help and support in a medium where their clients spend time and feel comfortable.

Just as teletherapy has expanded access to those who cannot or do not want to attend in-person sessions, VR offers another avenue to reach populations who feel more comfortable expressing themselves in a virtual versus physical setting.

And it is effective. A comprehensive study of 285 studies from the past 20 years showed that VR’s capability “to simulate reality could greatly increase access to psychological therapies, while treatment outcomes could be enhanced by the technology’s ability to create new realities.”

With the recent release of affordable, stand alone VR headsets, there has been no greater time for therapists and support group facilitators to reach out to those in need by embracing this groundbreaking technology.

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

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