Virtual Reality May Boost Success of Eating Disorder Telehealth Treatment
Virtual reality is proving to be more than just a fun escape for video game lovers. Since the 1990s, it has been used as a tool for challenging mental health concerns, and people with eating disorders may benefit from this form of therapy. A recent study published in Human-Computer Interaction explored the potential benefits of utilizing virtual reality headsets in the context of psychotherapy sessions.
Researchers used an online body image assessment to screen through 130 young adult women for at-risk individuals. Fourteen women met the requirements for the study, since they did not have an eating disorder but were considered at high risk for developing one. Those 14 individuals, as well as the therapists, sat in separate rooms and wore headsets.
To begin, the clients were asked to create avatars of themselves with their measurements, which aided them in seeing an accurate picture of how they look. This virtual option also enabled the therapist to use exposure therapy to help the client become more accepting of themselves. For one exercise, the avatar gradually wore fewer articles of clothing until it was only wearing underwear. During the exercises, the therapist was able to counsel the client through their thoughts and feelings.