Innerworld Virtual Reality

Virtual reality apps that focus on mental health are now available, but the effectiveness of these apps is not known

Donkin Martinez, who lost his father to Covid last fall was overcome by grief. He turned to virtual reality as an outlet.

The 24-year-old found himself in the emerging field of virtual mental healthcare. Innerworld offers peer-led support via its app and provides peer-led mental care. It is a metaverse that will bring CBT principles into play and allow users to communicate anonymously with other avatars via voice- and text-based chat.

CBT is a method that helps patients to change their thinking and behavior patterns. It also helps them develop coping skills. It is a type of therapy that allows people to “learn how to be their therapists,” according to the American Psychological Association.

Innerworld allows everyday users to offer support to one another. Noah Robinson, the founder of Innerworld, stresses that it is not meant to replace professional treatment. Innerworld users must admit that the app is not therapy when they register.

Robinson stated that “it’s not therapy” and could not provide crisis intervention. Innerworld’s goal is to provide long-term support for people so they don’t get into crisis. We also have people in the hospital who seek additional support.

Users can select from several settings to resemble environments such as libraries or hiking trails when they enter Innerworld. They can interact with other avatars, or browse a list of peer-led events such as group meditation sessions and addiction support groups, as well as workshops on managing social anxiety. Martinez stated that he once joined a game where users could guess what other people were drawing.

Innerworld is still studying the effectiveness of its approach. The company plans to publish preliminary data from an internal study that showed a decrease in anxiety and depression symptoms in 127 participants. Innerworld is funded by a $206,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Barbara Rothbaum, a psychologist from Emory University School of Medicine, stated that it is essential to gather reliable, long-term data to evaluate this program or similar programs. Rothbaum published a 1995 paper about VR as a treatment for fear of heights.

She said that most applications have now used a real therapist for virtual reality.

VR has been used primarily for the treatment of a variety of conditions, including claustrophobia and arachnophobia. It also helps with social anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Rothbaum said, however, that VR could be helpful for self-help. However, the programs that have been tried haven’t been designed for this purpose.

Skip Rizzo, the director of medical VR at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies said that he was the first to recognize VR’s potential for mental healthcare in the 1990s. Rizzo was a pioneer in the use of VR for PTSD treatment among military personnel. In 2005, a report described the experience of a Vietnam War veteran who received VR therapy and saw a 34% drop in his clinician-rated PTSD.

Rizzo stated that he believes Innerworld has the potential to be a success, provided the app does not make it clear that it isn’t clinician-run.

Rizzo stated that people who are afraid of stigma or embarrassment about their problems might not be open to sharing them with others. They might be more inclined to do so in an avatar-based world, where they can keep their anonymity and still interact with others.

Martinez stated that he felt the same as other Innerworld users, but didn’t feel the empathy he needed in the real world.

“My real friends don’t know that my emotions are very strong.” He said that I am very cautious with my emotions when it comes to my real friends. “I can open up in Innerworld because it’s safe for me to do so. “I’m not going be attacked.”

Robinson stated that Innerworld was created because he found solace in the online community of his people. He said that he became depressed when he realized he was gay at 13 and turned to RuneScape for help. He felt more at ease exploring the parts of himself that he was afraid to confront in the real world because he could keep his anonymity. Robinson stated that he finally came out to his friends online.

Innerworld isn’t the only program that uses VR to assist people in accessing mental health support.

In his work, Rizzo is piloting a clinician-facilitated VR project that offers social support to Ukrainian refugees. Refugiés who have moved to Bucharest (Romania) can access a virtual version in Kyiv where they can communicate with other refugees anonymously.

Last week, BehaVR launched its app called First Resort. The VR app guides users through “chapters”, which are skills that can be taught in CBT sessions.

BehaVR’s chief clinician officer is Risa Weisberg. She is a professor at the Avedisian School of Medicine and Boston University Chobanian. Because VR experiences are processed in the same way as real-life experiences, people don’t perceive them as reading or hearing. Instead, they experience them as happening to them.

Weisberg believes that VR exposure therapy has been successful in the past because of this.

According to eMarketer’s 2021 estimates, VR’s reach could increase to 64 million in the U.S. by this year. Weisberg stated that the expansion takes place at a time when more people seek mental health care but many are not able to afford it due to high prices.

She said that all of this “combines at the same time to make it ripe for mental health techniques, and interventions in VR,” “I believe we will see a significant uptake in this.”

Rizzo stated that his primary concern with Innerworld is that people might substitute the app for professional help. Rothbaum said that randomized clinical trials are necessary to establish if these programs work.

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