Moore’s law is an observation of exponential improvement in digital technology both due to the accumulating effect of research and development, and also the falling consumer cost of products. This describes a trend that we have been witnessing for the past few decades, and the explanation to our increasingly digital life style as Canadians. Computers used to be the size of trailer homes and very costly, convincing people that it was impossible that the computer would ever be a mainstream consumer product. The average person today carries with them more computer power in their pocket than was used during the Apollo missions to put humans on the moon. So what does this have to do with counselling and psychotherapy?
A new fleet of wearable technologies will be saturating the markets in the coming years. These technologies have great implications for how we interact with our world and with each other. Virtual reality (VR) can become one of those technologies which revolutionizes psychotherapy. VR is typically experienced through a head-mounted device and gives the user the experience of presence, a phenomenon whereby the user is convinced they are in a place other than reality, regardless of their conscious acknowledgment that what they are witnessing is not real. Once a person puts on one of these headsets, they are transported into an entirely crafted digital world . The programmable nature of digital technology means that a user can exist anywhere in reality, and in fantasy. A person can experience the thrill and excitement of a 100 foot high roller coaster, and moments later, be visibly shaken, left alone in a claustrophobic series of hallways and crypts. One can soar gracefully through space observing spiral galaxies to an accompanying orchestra, or simply relax within a virtual cinema with friends and family connected through the internet. Due to VR’s powerful impact, it has the potential to provide convincing therapeutic tools to aid in many therapies which rely on visualization, such as therapies to help manage phobias, anxieties, depression, and even mindfulness training for relaxation, among others.
There is a dearth of much needed research in the mental health community regarding the benefits and potential risks of innovative technologies and its effects on people. However, research will become increasingly affordable, viable, and needed. Whether the counselling field chooses to employ these technologies for therapy or not, it will be imperative to explore the effects that technologies such as VR will have on the psyche.
A whole new world of counselling may be emerging, as the first VR consumer item will be available in the first quarter of 2016. The retail price is comparable to a typical gaming console, and will only become more affordable as the years pass. Get ready for the VR explosion.
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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA