Through various techniques, such as relaxation, visualization, biofeedback and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), stress management therapy can help to overcome the negative effects of stress. The INTERSTRESS project had a looked more closely on CBT protocols for treatment and prevention of psychological stress and burnout. This 3-year research study funded under the FP7 program by DG-CONNECT, European Commission, was completed in February 2014, and deliver us here its findings.
In the standard CBT protocol for stress management, imagination and/or exposure evoke emotions, and the meaning of the associated feelings can be changed through reflection and relaxation. The INTERSTRESS project went a step beyond: allowing participants (school teachers and nurses) to control experiences that evoke emotions, resulting in meaningful new feelings, which can then be considered and ultimately changed through reflection and relaxation. Allowing the participants to be actively involved, with a measure of control, helped to improve self-confidence and self-efficacy.
Although traditional CBT focuses directly on modifying dysfunctional thoughts through a rational and deliberate process, INTERSTRESS focused on modification through a more contextualized, experiential process. In the INTERSTRESS training, individuals were actively involved in the learning process, experiencing stressful situations reproduced in virtual environments and reflecting on the stress level in their daily life with the help of advanced technology, Virtual Reality, Smartphones and biofeedback sensors.
From a clinical point of view, the INTERSTRESS solution offers the following advantages to existing traditional CBT protocols for stress management:
- integrated and quantitative assessment of the user’s stress level using biosensors and behavioral analysis: the level of stress is continuously assessed in the virtual world by recording the participant’s behavioral and emotional status;
- provision of motivating feedback to improve self-awareness, compliance and long-term outcomes. (Participants receive feedback of their emotional and physical state to improve their appraisal and coping skills in an engaging and motivating fashion.)
Virtual Reality Medical Institute, VRMI, was the Dissemination Exploitation Workpackage Leader for the INTERSTRESS Project as well as a Clinical Partner and leader of the Marketing Trials. We are now proud to announce that we are the first provider of the INTERSTRESS solution in a private practice setting, proving that positive research achieved can be successfully translated into real world settings, helping individuals achieve relief long after the project is complete.
We offer these services in Belgium, California and China. For more information on locations please visit our contact page at: http://vrphobia.eu/contact or email us at research @ vrphobia.eu.
For more information on the research and the treatment, a Pdf is available here.