Research from the University of Kent, the Digital Media, Smart Systems and Emerging Technologies Research Center, RISE Ltd and the University of Cyprus has shown that, through a method called Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET), virtual reality ( VR ) technology can have a huge effect on the validity of remote health appointments for those with eating disorders.

For those with body shape and weight issues, this paper illustrates the possible importance of Multi-User Virtual Reality (MUVR) remote psychotherapy.

Participants and therapists were equipped with VR Head-Mounted Displays and exposed to each other inside the VR system in the research, published in the Human-Computer Interaction Journal. According to their appearance, the user will then customize their virtual avatar (body shape and height, skin tone and hair colour and shape). For many conversations, the client and therapist were then “teleported” to two simulated reality therapies, leading up to the Mirror Exposure.

Mirror Exposure requires confrontation with one’s form and body in a mirror. The participant faces a virtual avatar in the MUVR that they have customized to fit their own physical body. Here, using virtual sliders, they were again able to alter body shapes, change clothes, skin tone, as well as hair style and colour. Then, once the participant’s avatar was in their virtual underwear, clothing was gradually decreased.

The client was then asked to evaluate and part of their body and make changes while explaining their emotions , feelings and concerns with the therapist, contributing to the patient’s virtual exposure therapy via the personalized avatar to their body shape and size.

The research showed that the therapist’s avatar was vital to the client. The cartoonish avatar encouraged greater transparency from respondents, while the concept of negative judgment was expressed by therapist avatars in human form. Participants noted the absence of fear of judgment in post-session interviews to encourage them to commit to the objectives of the session.Dr Jim Ang, Senior Lecturer in Multimedia/Digital Systems and Research Supervisor, said:’ Virtual Reality’s ability to be used remotely and without the question of ability decision to solve health concerns with patients is for VR to be used in the health sector. VR will give people the courage to connect with and accept medical advice without the problem of judgment, which people will fear before even pursuing medical advice. The capacity for VR to assist in remote non-contact medical appointments between patients and practitioners is enormous in terms of technological capabilities, due to special consideration in times of pandemic.’

“Dr Maria Matsangidou, Research Associate at RISE Ltd and Experimental Researcher of the study, said:” Multi-User Virtual Reality is a groundbreaking tool for psychotherapeutic treatments that enables therapist and patient to be physically separated, thereby providing patients with more “comfortable” transparency. Patient exposure issues about body shape and size may exhibit anxiety responses, but this can elicit new learning through remote exposure therapy that allows the patient to shape new experiences.’

Source of Story: University of Kent Materials Supplied. Published originally by Sam Wood. Note: For style and length, material can be edited.

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