With one out of eight people in the world living with a mental disorder, mental health has become a critical concern of global importance. However, many people are still not receiving the care they need and deserve. Fortunately, emerging technologies are becoming more affordable and accessible, offering new possibilities to transform mental health care. One such solution is mental health services in VR.
To explore the key role emerging technologies play in revolutionizing the field of mental health, we delve into the current challenges the industry faces and how new technologies can potentially address them. Terrance Williams, the founder of Meta Wellness, shares his insights on how digital and immersive technologies can augment the delivery of mental health care services.
Major Gaps in Mental Health Systems
Mental health systems worldwide are marked by significant gaps in information and research, governance, resources, and services. For instance, around half of the world’s population live in countries where the ratio of psychiatrists to people is 1 for every 200,000. In the United States alone, almost one out of four adults with mental illness reported that they were not able to receive the treatment they needed.
Virtual reality offers an accessible and affordable way to provide high-quality and timely mental health care.
The Role of VR in Mental Health Care
VR and similar technologies have the potential to provide more immersive and engaging interventions that can significantly enhance the quality and accessibility of mental health care. Terrance Williams believes that VR is the next stage toward the future of mental health. He explains that instead of telehealth services relying on zoom or a computer to host their sessions, they can now do their sessions in VR in the metaverse.
According to Williams, the effectiveness of VR has been seen in a number of ways including the treatment of acrophobia, panic disorders, schizophrenia, agoraphobia, social phobia, claustrophobia, and eating disorders.
VR simulations have also shown great promise as an effective element in therapy sessions for PTSD as they allow a person to face their trauma in a relaxed and controlled setting. Indeed, the possibilities are endless. Even in the realm of rehabilitation, VR has been seen as useful in cognitive rehabilitation in adults and children with autism spectrum disorder.
Challenges in VR Mental Health
The development and use of VR in mental health care must be carefully monitored and regulated to ensure that it benefits patients and does not create new risks or challenges. Asked about the challenges that mental health professionals face when incorporating VR into their practices, Williams says that one of the biggest things he often gets asked about is HIPAA compliance. Although he explains that this does not pose a threat as long as certain measures are in place and certain steps are taken to maintain compliance.
Another issue often raised when it comes to mental health in VR is the accessibility of equipment. Headset devices are needed to conduct sessions in VR. Since the technology is still fairly new, VR headsets are not as common as phones, tablets, or laptops. While they can now be easily bought at electronic stores, they are not yet standard items in the common household. This limits access to mental health VR services, especially in low-income families.
Incorporating VR Into Mental Health Care
For mental health professionals looking to incorporate VR into their practices, it is important to start with learning the basics of virtual reality technology and how it can be used for mental health purposes. Collaborating with companies that specialize in building VR platforms for mental health professionals, like Meta Wellness, can also help navigate the technology.
Through Meta Wellness, Williams has been helping mental health professionals, therapists, life coaches, nonprofits, and many others in the virtual reality space. The company specializes in building VR platforms for mental health professionals for telehealth purposes. Clients anywhere in the world can buy or rent virtual reality spaces to host telehealth or private group sessions. As one of the pioneers in the space, they are committed to educating, growing, and exploring the possibilities of what virtual reality can bring.
Stronger Mental Health Care With Mental Health VR
Williams believes that in the future, 90% of all mental health telehealth sessions will eventually take place in the metaverse through virtual reality. He believes that mental health VR is the next phase in this sector. As the technology grows, so will the capabilities and accessibility.
Indeed, virtual reality and other immersive technologies can play a key role in addressing the indisputable and urgent need for wide-ranging transformation toward mental health for all. They can bridge the vast gap and reduce inequities in mental health systems.