Therapists are increasingly using virtual reality (VR) technology to help people overcome phobias, PTSD, and other disorders.
Indiana University researchers believe it can also help people in recovery from addiction, allowing those in recovery to "interact" with future healthy versions (avatars) of themselves.
Discover Mental Health[I] recently published a pilot study on the approach.
According to Brandon Oberlin, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Indiana University School of Medicine, "this (VR) experience enables people in recovery to have a personalized virtual experience, in alternate futures resulting from the choices they made. We believe this could be a revolutionary intervention for early substance use disorders recovery, with perhaps even further-reaching mental health applications."[ii]
Oberlin believes this technology will prove particularly important in the earliest phases of recovery when the risk of a dangerous relapse is greatest.
The research team believes VR is helpful for people in early recovery because virtual experiences (personal avatars – computer-generated versions of themselves) help those suffering from substance use disorder see the value of long-term rewards over short-term pleasure. The connection VR creates to an individual's potential future self is believed to be the most valuable therapeutic component.
The Indiana team has recently received $4.9 million in grants from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) to test relapse rates and brain function in those receiving VR treatment.
If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol and need help in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Virginia, Florida, Ohio, or Indiana, the recovery teams at Aware Recovery Care are here to help. And we come to you, regardless of where you live. Our unique in-home treatment model of care gives clients a significantly better chance of recovery when compared to traditional inpatient rehab care. Please get in touch with one of our Recovery Specialists to learn more.
[i] Yitong I. Shen, Andrew J. Nelson, Brandon G. Oberlin. Virtual reality intervention effects on future self-continuity and delayed reward preference in substance use disorder recovery: pilot study results. Discover Mental Health, 2022; 2