Exposure therapy, a form of cognitive behavioral therapy, involves subjecting patients to increasing amounts of things they fear, or otherwise hope to avoid. It is one of the great success stories of mental health, and it’s not just for phobias…
Recently, a more palatable route has been introduced with virtual reality. The Virtual Reality Medical Center in La Jolla, for example, offers VR therapy for all manner of fears. Heights, driving, needles and blood, spiders, enclosed spaces—you name it, they treat it. First steps in traditional phobia treatment sometimes involve imagining fearful scenarios, but a patient’s mind is naturally resistant to those thoughts and will go to some lengths to avoid fleshing out terrifying visions. Virtual reality scenarios have proved useful in social phobias, wherein patients have a debilitating fear of interacting with other people.
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