What are you most scared of? Snakes? Spiders? Heights?
If your phobias are the run-of-the-mill variety, there’s a very good chance you’re in luck. Why?
Therapists are treating these sorts of fears now in the safety of their own offices—courtesy virtual reality gaming technology.
Take the case of a man named Dick Tracey (not be confused with Dick Tracy). Tracey used to be quite scared of heights. But that’s all changed, thanks to an innovative counselor and the a simple gaming virtual reality headset. Here’s what the Associated Press had to say:
Through VR, [Tracey] rode an elevator to a high-rise atrium that looked so real he fell to his knees. “I needed to search with my hand for something solid around me,” he said. He told himself, “I must look stupid. Let’s just stand up. Nothing’s going to happen.” …VR therapy made life simpler for Tracey. After seven VR sessions, he now easily parks his car atop a multi-story garage. He stood on the flat roof of his house to clean his carport. “I would never have dreamed of doing that before,” he said. “I now know how much the fear of heights restricted my everyday life.”
As exciting as this new development is, I’m trying to get my arms around how VR might work for me. I admit I’m not a big fan of rats. I haven’t seen a lot of them in my life, but when I do, they give me the heebie jeebies! So, I put on this headset and computer-generated rodents start scurrying all around me? How many? One? Thousands? Then rat armies begin to crawl up my body? What if they start chewing on some body part in this virtual world? Am I supposed to just go with the flow, telling myself it’s not real? And how is that supposed to help me the next time some rat darts out of a dark crawl space in real life? Am I supposed to go, “Oh, hi there, my Ratatouille-like friend?!” I don’t think so!
I’m glad this technology is being used to help people overcome their fears. But with me, I think the VR therapists still have a lot more work to do…if I ever go in for therapy! Too scared of the bill! What’s the VR cure for that?!