Virtual Therapy

Virtual reality setting for online therapy

Game time! …..with your therapist?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

These days, everything happens online – even therapy! Though it can be tough to open up online. But hey. . . What if you could meet your therapist in a virtual setting, like in Animal Crossing?

Maria Matsangidou from the University of Kent in the UK and a team think this could help! They set up virtual therapists’ offices to see whether patients feel comfortable there.

Seven therapists and one hundred and thirty patients volunteered. Participants wore sensors to recreate their movements in the VR fantasy world setting. They had their avatars – therapists speaking boxes while the patients were cartoonish figures.

Based on after-session interviews, the patients were more willing to share information. The game-like setting and avatars made them feel less stressed. Although it’s a virtual environment, patients had a stronger connection with their therapists. This promising avenue may help more people and change how we approach therapy!

Just don’t match me against my therapist at Mario Kart. Just saying!

Matsangidou, M., Otkhmezuri, B., Ang, C. S., Avraamides, M., Riva, G., Gaggioli, A., Iosif, D., & Karekla, M. (2020). “Now i can see me” designing a multi-user virtual reality remote psychotherapy for body weight and shape concerns. Human–Computer Interaction, 1–27.