The application of virtual reality to clinical and health psychology is nothing new. However, the integration of augmented reality technology to these fields has grown exponentially over the years.
It’s not surprising why this is the case. The nature of augmented reality has a lot of potential when it comes to dealing with cases like phobias, depression, eating disorders, chronic pain, and other mental disorders. By combining simulated elements with a person’s real environment, mental health providers and patients will be able to face these complex issues under a more realistic light.
Importance of Augmented Reality Technology in the Field of Mental Health
There’s a long list of reasons why augmented reality is essential to the development of the mental health industry. To name a few, here are some of the most important concepts behind the need for continuous augmented reality integration to clinical and health psychology:
- AR as an imaginal technology
With the help of augmented reality, people can feel as if they are experiencing their triggers or stimuli in the real world, all while giving therapists and mental health professionals have control over the movement and presence of such elements during therapy. Not only will this make therapies for efficient, but it also gives mental health professionals the chance to witness first-hand how their patients react to stimuli and understand their individual limits.
- AR as an embodied technology
Augmented reality can let people watch themselves as others, and see themselves do something they’ve never done. That is extremely useful, as it changes the bounds of one’s body and allows professionals to study the relationship and interaction among cognition, emotions, and the body (actions, posture, and movement). This gives people the chance to learn adaptive behaviors that could help them in future situations.
- AR as connectivity technology
Accessibility is one of the main roadblocks to mental health provision. It is not only in terms of cost but also because of geographic limitations. With augmented reality technology, people will have the chance to experience an effective method of mental health therapy regardless of the miles that separate them and their mental health therapists.
What is Cybertherapy?
Cybertherapy is a branch of psychology that utilizes Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to stimulate clinical change. It uses technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality technology to complement the existing traditional forms of therapy. More and more, Cybertherapy is being accepted as a valid and effective way to enhance the way professionals help their patients face their mental health issues.
Augmented Reality in Cybertherapy
Augmented reality technology can combine virtual elements and environments with the real world. It is tremendously helpful, as it lets patients immerse themselves in the real world while experiencing stimuli that almost seem as if they’re real. It not only enhances the experience but also lets therapists see their patients’ reactions to triggers and control these stimuli at will.
Apart from phobias, there are new potential grounds for augmented reality in the field of mental health. An example is the social virtual world introduced by Facebook. It has the potential to help patients have an increased sense of presence, especially those experiencing PTSD, social phobia, anxiety disorder, and more.
There’s also a data glove currently being developed and improved that enables patients have tactile interactions with virtual elements and environments. These also help them deal with disturbing stimuli, increase their personal presence, and even serve as a distraction during surgeries.
The Future of Cybertherapy
The integration of augmented reality to mental health therapy has only been put into practice for a few years compared to virtual reality (where patients’ environment gets substituted into a virtual environment instead of a real one). Likewise, it shows extreme potential, especially in the field of phobias. The benefit of using augmented reality in therapy is the fact that patients can feel as if what they’re experiencing is real—making the treatment process effective and safe.
However, the integration of augmented reality to mental health is still limited. As mentioned, most of the successes in the application of augmented reality to psychology come in the form of helping patients face phobias. But with increased research and application ideas, it’s not hard to imagine just how far augmented reality technology can go.