Mental Health Awareness Week: 5 Ways Virtual Reality is Transforming Mental Health


One in four of us will experience mental health issues at some point in our life. Our aim is to enable millions of people to have the very best psychological therapy – and we believe that this can be achieved using VR-enabled immersive therapy. Here are 5 reasons why VR is transforming mental health;

1. Ground-breaking treatment delivering better MH outcomes

  • VR-enabled therapy is a proven means of delivering rapid, lasting improvements. Multiple clinical trials have shown how it can give results at least as good as, if not better than, face-to-face therapyOne such treatment for clinically diagnosed fear of heights which has been developed by Oxford VR has shown to be successful in reducing patients fears by an average of nearly 70%, demonstrating its huge potential to address a variety of other mental health problems. 
  • VR has an extraordinary ability to create powerful simulations of the scenarios in which psychological difficulties occur. With VR-enabled therapy, there’s no need for a therapist to accompany a client on a trip to a crowded shopping centre, for example, or up to a tall building.
  • The results are also better than those expected with the best psychological intervention delivered face to face with a therapist. 

2. Capacity to deliver high quality treatment at scale

  • Many people still go untreated due to a shortage of qualified clinicians, long waiting lists and stigma.  VR enabled therapy can facilitate a large increase in the number of patients who can be treated
  • VR-enabled therapy is automated. The therapist is embedded within the programme, as an avatar enabling fast and high-quality evidence-based treatment. 
  • The technology complements face-to-face therapy, helping to share the therapeutic workload.

3. Provides a better MH experience for patients

  • Studies indicate that between 20-30% of individuals drop out of treatment and will, therefore continue to struggle with the same mental health problem and may even get worse. 
  • VR-enabled therapy is delivering a superior patient experience. 
  • Gamification has the potential to increase the impact of mental health interventions. By creating powerful simulations of the scenarios in which psychological difficulties occur, patients are gradually and systematically exposed to scenarios that trigger their symptoms. 
  • Because these situations do not have any of the perceived dangers of a real-life setting, patients have the confidence to try things they would normally avoid, enabling them to overcome their fears and negative thought.  
  • The VR environments and activities are so compelling and immersive that both the data and patient testimonies show that users find therapy easy to engage with and even fun to use. 

4. Significant cost saving potential

  • Mental ill-health costs the UK more than £94bn every year, counting treatment, social support costs and the losses to the economy from people who cannot work.[
  • Mental health services are unable to cope with demand due to rising demand, workforce shortages and funding issues.
  • VR-enabled therapy is more cost-effective when delivered at scale and facilitates better access to care and reallocation of skilled mental health clinicians.  
  • Oxford VR’s Fear of heights treatment averages at just two hours of treatment time, compared to at least six hours for traditional face-to-face therapy.

5. Responds to increasing expectations of patients

  • VR makes therapy fun. Patients find it easier to do the therapy in the virtual world – and they enjoy using VR applications. Patients say it’s an incredible experience. But the beauty of virtual reality therapy is that the benefits transfer to the real world.
  • Younger patients are also very willing to use VR too. 
  • During clinical studies, most subjects found VR to be a pleasant and positive experience, providing a distraction from their anxiety and distress. 

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