The Virtual News, Volume 1(4)


Happy Holidays! As we come to the close of 2001, it is a time to stop and give thanks for the gifts that are ours—health, family, and friends. At The Virtual Reality Medical Center (VRMC), 2001 was our new beginning, a time of expansion of the services we offer to the community and the realization of a dream. Formerly the Center for Advanced Multimedia Psychotherapy (CAMP), we have grown to become the VRMC to more accurately embody the broad array of mental health and behavioral medicine services we now offer. In addition to our phobia, panic, and anxiety disorder treatments utilizing virtual reality exposure therapy and physiological monitoring and feedback, we now have on staff a clinical psychologist who specializes in functional disorders such as fibromyalgia, migraine and tension headache, irritable bowel syndrome, and insomnia. Dr. Jim Spira offers group and individual therapy, as well as clinical hypnotherapy, to deal with stress and anxiety.

A clinical psychologist who specializes in child and family therapy and assessments has also recently joined our staff. Dr. Norm Severe utilizes advanced technologies as an adjunct to traditional child therapy. VRMC has grown from one room with one therapist (me!) in August 1997 to now having a staff of twenty-five and a twenty-room clinic. We have conducted over 3,000 virtual reality sessions and have published numerous scientific papers on our treatments. In addition, our staff has presented at scientific conferences in three different countries, as well as being in popular press articles and on international, national, and local television programs discussing our work. It is important for us to stay current with the latest treatment protocols and technologies, as VRMC is dedicated to research, service, and training. In addition to our clinical services, we plan to begin controlled trials on panic with agoraphobia as part of a multi-center study with investigators in Korea, Italy, and Canada.

We received two grants this year. The first is to measure how physiology (heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, perspiration rate, and other physical parameters) changes during baseline, relaxed, and stressful conditions. The second is to understand what changes occur in a person’s cognitive state after taking over-the-counter antihistamines. We are in the planning stages of research with the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and Scripps Clinic, La Jolla to use virtual reality as a distraction technique during wound care in burn victims (UCSD) and during chemotherapy treatments (Scripps Clinic). We hope these studies will be underway in the Spring of 2002.

We continue our dedication to training those receiving their Master’s and Doctorate degrees in clinical psychology, health psychology, industrial and organizational psychology, biomedical engineering, and computer science. Although VRMC is a privately-owned professional medical corporation, we maintain active exchange programs with Hanyang University in Seoul, Korea; the Catholic University in Milan, Italy; Jaume I University in Valencia, Spain; and also offer training to doctoral students attending UCSD, San Diego State University (SDSU), and Alliant International University (AIU), San Diego. With the opening of our Santa Monica office in 2002, we will also be offering training to students from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

VRMC now has a non-profit affiliate for your convenience should you desire to donate to our research and training programs. The Interactive Media Institute (IMI) is a woman-owned 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Many of our research programs will be conducted under IMI. Funds donated to IMI are tax-deductible, and a letter can be provided to you for tax purposes. If you need more information on donating, please feel free to contact me at or (858) 623-2777, ext. 415. A special thank you to Linda Manassee Buell for her recent donation of a portion of her book sales, Panic and Anxiety Disorder: 121 Tips, Real-life Advice, Resources & More, to fund research on panic and agoraphobia. (Her book may be purchased at or

Many former clients of CAMP and VRMC have expressed a desire to have an on-going support group. They say that knowing there are others who truly understand what their daily struggles are has been very beneficial to them. If you or someone you know are interested in a support group, please contact my front office staff at (858) 642-0267 or e-mail me at and let us know what days/times each week would be best for you. The clinic is open from 9:30-6 Monday-Friday and 9-4 on Saturday. We want to encourage everyone to become active participants in their own recovery and continued wellness.

I appreciate those of you who call or e-mail periodically to let us know how you are doing. Also, a special thanks to those of you who have agreed to give interviews for news stories or print media stories. I would like to offer everyone the opportunity to send in any personal quotes you might like to have featured on our website or in future clinic brochures. We can use your full name or only your initials should you wish to maintain your anonymity. Only by vocalizing our treatment successes can we let others know that they do not have to suffer in silence; help is available.

From all of us at VRMC, we wish you health, happiness, and success in the coming year. Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to serve you over the past year, and please let us know how we can best serve your future needs.



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


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.