Using Cutting Edge Virtual Reality Technology to Treat Depression

By Dr. Rob Purssey

Self criticism can be a helpful tool but for many people it can be damaging, pulling us away from the things that matter most to us or slowing us down with anxiety or depression. A wealth of research shows however that we can learn to manage overly self critical thoughts and feelings using self compassion.

However, many of us are resistant to self-compassion.

Check out this awesome study in which they used an immersive virtual reality scenario. Participants interacted compassionately with a crying virtual child while embodied in a virtual adult body.

In the second phase, one group of participants then embodied the child body and could experience a recording of their compassionate gestures and words being delivered to them from this (child) embodied first-person perspective.

By having participants embody an adult and then a child virtual body in succession, our scenario effectively provided a self-to-self situation enabling participants to deliver compassionate sentiments and statements to themselves.

Fascinating stuf.

Participants of the study had three 8 minute virtual reality exposures each one week apart, at the end of the three experiences. 60% of the 15 participants reported decreased depression symptoms a month later.

Self compassion is a skill that can be learned to help live life more meaningfully, and is a core part of acceptance and commitment therapy.

Full study here –

Dr. Rob Purssey

Dr. Rob Purssey

Psychiatrist, Director Brisbane ACT Centre

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