Is virtual reality therapy going to be the next big thing in universities?

As the number of students with mental health issues increases, universities around the world are finding new ways to help them.It was recently reported by CU Boulder Today that Colorado University’s CU Boulder’s Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) has begun a pilot programme for the use of virtual reality (VR) for mental health treatment.According to the website, programmes will include “guided meditations and relaxation and a simulation that addresses anxiety and fears.”The new programme, already available to students at the university, “aims to integrate VR with traditional therapy techniques for students facing anxiety, depression and other common mental health issues.”It is offered on a limited basis starting this semester, as there is currently only one VR headset available at the CAPS VR lab.However, according to CAPS Director Monica Ng, “Additional programmes will become available soon after the launch, and students who are interested in integrating VRT into their current treatment plans should talk with their CAPS counselor.”It can also be used to treat phobias such as the fear of heights (acrophobia), the fear of public speaking (glossophobia) and the fear of insects (entomophobia). Ng said, “VR allows us to fully immerse students in environments that would otherwise be difficult. Exposure therapy is an evidence-based treatment to address anxiety and phobias, but the integration of technology into the therapy setting has been very limited on college campuses due to lack of resources.”

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