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Supporting mental health treatment with virtual reality

28 September, 2021
News and events

An OPAIC graduate has co-authored a paper about the use of virtual reality in treating anxiety and depression.

The paper titled Virtual Reality for Supporting the Treatment of Depression and Anxiety: Scoping Review was co-authored by IT graduate Andrej Hlasnik and has been published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research – Mental Health.

According to the paper, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to effectively help patients overcome a wide variety of mental health conditions.

Virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) might be one of the most exciting technologies emerging in the clinical setting for the treatment of anxiety and depression, it said.

This study aimed to investigate the virtual reality (VR) technologies currently being used to help support the treatment of depression and anxiety. It also aimed to investigate how CBT is included as part of VRET and look at the VR technologies and interventions that have been used in recent studies on depression and anxiety.

It found that most studies demonstrated the use of VR to be effective for supporting the treatment of anxiety or depression in a range of settings and recommended it as a tool for use in a clinical environment.

The project involved a multi-disciplinary team including researchers working in the areas of Virtual Reality and Gaming, Computer Science, Programming and Software Development, Behavioural Neuroscience, Psychology and Psychiatry affiliated with Massey University, Otago Polytechnic, Auckland Institute of Studies, Liverpool University, and the University of Otago.

Co-authors also included current and former OPAIC staff members Dr Nilufar Baghaei, Dr Lehan Stemmet and Vibhav Chitale.

The project was funded by Massey University Strategic Excellence Research Fund and Otago Polytechnic Auckland International Campus.