Can Virtual Reality Cure Phobias – Skip Rizzo and VR Therapy in the Guardian

Published: March 20, 2016
Category: News

An article in the UK’s Guardian covered research showing that VR headsets are proving to be a useful therapeutic tool.
The story stated that though clinical use of VR is in its infancy in the UK, the US has been applying this technology for years, specifically to treat servicemen returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Albert “Skip” Rizzo, director of medical virtual reality at the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies, has worked with many soldiers, and explains how it works. “Traditional exposure therapy to treat PTSD relies on the person imagining the situation related to the trauma. But one of the key symptoms of PTSD is avoidance of the cues and reminders of the trauma. So it’s hard to expect someone to create a vivid mental image of something they’re trying to avoid.
“We place the person in VR simulations that the clinician can control in real time, and customise based on that person’s experience, but in a safe environment.” To do this, Rizzo and his team created 14 virtual worlds, varying from a large Middle Eastern city to remote outposts.