The Virtual News, Volume 1(2)


With the coming of Spring, the Virtual Reality Medical Center (VRMC) will be expanding the treatment options we offer to the San Diego community. I’d like to take this opportunity to highlight our new treatment groups, which will be coordinated by Dr. James L. Spira, Director of our Health Psychology Program. Dr. Spira, Ph.D., MPH, ABPP joined our group last April. Dr. Spira’s experience includes providing services as head of the Health Psychology Division at Balboa Naval Hospital, serving as head of the Health Psychology Clinic at both Duke University and Stanford University, and teaching meditation and Tai Chi throughout the world. In addition to using virtual reality and physiological feedback to treat patients with anxiety disorders, panic, and phobias; Dr. Spira is a certified clinical hypnotherapist and is know internationally for his treatment groups for anxiety and stress-related disorders including headache (both migraine and tension), irritable bowel syndrome, and general stress management. To find out more about Dr. Spira’s upcoming groups, please call 858-642-0267 or visit our website at

A new book offering advice on ways to cope more effectively with anxiety entitled: Panic and Anxiety Disorder: 121 Tips, Real-life Advice, Resources & More, has just been released. It can be ordered from its author, Linda Manassee Buell at

Our two newest virtual reality exposure environments are a small conference room audience and a large group audience for treating public speaking fears. The virtual environments include digitized video that has been incorporated into the environment, allowing for a more realistic experience. An actual PowerPoint presentation can also be imported into the virtual world so that an individual can practice his or her own presentation prior to a meeting or conference. The audience responses can be varied; from an attentive audience to a bored or hostile audience; with other variations such as “cell phones ringing” and “audience members asking questions” being available also.

Our current virtual reality exposure treatments include fear of flying, fear of driving, fear of heights, claustrophobia, agoraphobia and panic, social phobia, and fear of public speaking. These treatments are combined with traditional cognitive-behavioral techniques, including breathing retraining with visual feedback of respiration, heart rate, sweat gland activity, and skin temperature. We also continue to offer treatment for physiological disorders including migraine and tension headache, vestibular disorders, and irritable bowel syndrome, as well as general stress management techniques.

We look forward to serving your individual and group therapy needs. Our services are offered on a sliding fee scale, based on income level. Some insurance policies may also cover our individual therapy services, which are billed as “individual psychotherapy” under the “mental health” benefits portion of many insurances.


Dr. Brenda K. Wiederhold, Ph.D., MBA, BCIA Dr. Mark D. Wiederhold, M.D., Ph.D., FACP
Executive Director Medical Director

Donations to support research and training opportunities combining technology and psychology may be made to our 501c3 nonprofit organization—the Interactive Media Institute.
Donations are tax deductible, and a letter will be provided for tax purposes.