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  • Writer's pictureNichole Sullivan

Virtual Reality Takes You to New Heights in Overcoming Acrophobia

We have been working with our local manufacturing industry leader, BlueScope Steel on an industry solution for managing one specific risk of working at heights; Acrophobia.

We're using the Meta Oculus VR system to allow participants to experience a range of different heights and simulated scenarios, such as standing on a balcony, climbing a staircase or crossing a bridge.

The program is supported by a psychologist and an occupational therapist, both designing and delivering the treatment plan to maximise the therapeutic benefits.

Acrophobia is a type of anxiety disorder characterised by an excessive and irrational fear of heights. Virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) is a relatively new approach that has been used to treat acrophobia. VRET involves using virtual reality technology to simulate heights and expose patients to situations that trigger their fear.

There is a growing body of scientific evidence that supports the effectiveness of VRET for acrophobia. A number of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) have been conducted that have shown significant improvements in symptoms of acrophobia following VRET. For example, a meta-analysis of 16 RCTs conducted in 2019 found that VRET was significantly more effective than traditional exposure therapy or no treatment in reducing symptoms of acrophobia. The study also found that the effects of VRET were comparable to real-life exposure to heights.

The length of time it takes for virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) to be effective can vary depending on the individual and the severity of their acrophobia. One study has shown that three sessions were enough to significantly reduce fear of heights improvements in symptoms. It is important to work with a qualified mental health professional to determine the appropriate course of treatment for each individual.

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