A Virtual Cure For Phobias Literature Review Sample
Cognitive-behavioral therapy has shown considerable success in the treatment of phobias. A great significance has a method of virtual reality. The essence of this method lies in the ability of a patient to face a fear by seeing and feeling it like in a real situation. This approach can treat phobias evoked by airplanes, elevators, spiders, heights, and thunderstorms (Winerman, 2005). To be exposed to a fear, the patient must wear a special headgear with headphones and a screen to get into a 3-D virtual world. For more authentic sensation there can be some additional devices applied to simulate reality. Using this method, the patient can choose the intensity of the exposure to his or her fear within the safe environment (Winerman, 2005). Thus, the therapist helps the patient to habituate to the fear, so that he or she will no longer be traumatized.
Treatment of phobias using CBT started to gain popularity in the 1950's. However, patients had to use their imagination to visualize an object or a situation that usually caused a feeling of fear. Even more severe way to overcome the fear was to introduce a direct frightening object or situation to the patient (Winerman, 2005). The latter method is not very convenient, since there is not always an opportunity to buy a plane ticket, to climb the mountain, or to find a spider, and it can be quite traumatic to boot. Method of virtual reality was developed in the mid-nineties. One of the pioneers of this approach was Barbara Rothbaum, who also organized a company Virtually Better, which develops special equipment for the use of virtual reality for therapeutic purposes (Winerman, 2005).
The idea of a virtual cure may seem to be a panacea for phobias, but it is not suitable for everyone. People who are sensitive to hypnosis and who can be easily involved into an imaginary environment are more likely to benefit from this type of treatment. Skeptics, perfectionists and people with a distractive concentration will not be able to overcome their fears, due to some artificiality of the virtual environment (Winerman, 2005).
Although the method of virtual reality shows excellent results in the work against phobias, it is unlikely to replace the typical face-to-face counseling and therapy. Accompaniment of a qualified therapist is essential to control a measure of fear exposure, to monitor the progress and to support the client in facing his or her fears in vivo. It is not just behavioral therapy where the patient learns new reactions and patterns of behavior in a situation of fear. Cognitive component of this approach is about the help of the therapist in understanding these reactions and behaviors, and without face-to-face counseling, it would be difficult to achieve. Therefore, the virtual cure is only a method of CBT, which amplifies the effectiveness of therapy in overcoming the fears.
Winerman, L. (2005). A Virtual Cure. Monitor on Psychology, 36(7), 87. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/