Virtual reality occupational therapy

Virtual reality technology allows you to be exposed to a computer-generated environment. Using a head-mounted display, computer graphics let you enter a safe three-dimensional, immersive, simulated “virtual” environment. This simulated environment changes in a natural way depending on the your head or body movements. While we are still in the early stages of VR adoption in healthcare, there is a coming wave of VR devices and applications that will transform the way healthcare is delivered.

Clinical research have shown that virtual reality (VR) can be used effectively for pain management, mental health recovery and neurorehabilitation. VR can create an environment for people in which they can heal and reduce stress. VR can also be used to help people learn new skills that they can apply in real-world situations.

At Lifeworks, we are currently developing our unique Virtual Reality Occupational Therapy programs in Pain Management and Mental Health Recovery.

Virtual Reality (VR) can also be used to help you recover from anxiety and PTSD through Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET). VRET aims to reduce anxiety by having the person confront what you fear (e.g. heights, flying, public speaking, driving, being in public places). Exposure can be carried out using VR, where you are exposed to a computer-simulated environment. These simulations are safe, controlled by a trained occupational therapist, and can be stopped at any time. Together, you and your occupational therapist select the virtual environments and experiences that will be most helpful for you depending on your fear and your stage of therapy. Through exposure to a feared situation, you gradually get used to that situation and develop better coping skills. This reduces fear and improves your sense of control as you feel less need to avoid the situation. The same concept of “tricking the brain” in pain management, clinical research have shown VR exposure therapy to be effective in helping people deal with anxiety, phobias and PTSD.

VR Therapy is an emerging alternative therapy that could reduce the reliance on medication. Using sophisticated VR headsets, you are immersed in a safe and relaxing environment which temporarily alters your experience, thus “tricking you brain” and providing a distraction from symptoms that trigger pain. Being immersed in such a pleasing environment can increase your sense of control and provides a new, safe way to cope with pain. Your occupational therapist will help you develop a therapy plan that is right for you with the intention of helping you improve your performance in important daily tasks and quality of life.