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Posted by Biology Forums   August 6, 2022   10788 views

The fear of heights experienced by acrophobics is no small matter; tall buildings, airplane rides, bridges, even stepladders may present a paralyzing challenge. A new therapeutic approach, however, can help to lessen the anxiety experienced by acrophobics.

Ralph Lamsen, of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Group, uses virtual reality to desensitize acrophobes to their fear. The virtual world experienced through the helmet, glove, and handgrip presents a series of challenges relevant to the phobic situation. For example, clients are presented with a plank they must cross, an experience that usually produces elevated heart rate and blood pressure. Clients are encouraged to progress at a comfortable pace, staying at the edge of the plank until ready. After successfully navigating this virtual hurdle, clients are then presented with a bridge they must cross. Typically, once clients "return" to the plank, desensitization has taken place and their blood pressure and heart rate have returned to normal. A virtual reality session of this sort takes about 40 minutes to complete.

Among the more than 60 clients who have participated in this therapy, over 90 percent successfully rode a real-world glass elevator up fifteen stories and completed self-determined tasks, such as driving across the Golden Gate Bridge or cleaning roof gutters. In addition, the benefits of the therapy appeared to persist after three months.

Source Staff (1994, November/December). Virtual therapy. Psychology Today, p. 20.

Phobia Technology Virtual Reality Treatment Mental Health
Posted in Research
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