VR Therapy [A Step-By-Step Guide]

Virtual Reality (VR) is a fantastic tool for physical and mental health therapy and rehabilitation. Read this article to learn more.

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by Scott Johannes, Doctor of Physical Therapy, Health Content Writer

This article focuses on VR for mental health therapy. Looking for physical therapy and rehabilitation? Please see our article on VR Rehabilitation

Why read this?

Community members have successfully used VR for their mental health therapy needs, resulting in the improvements listed below.

Mental health improvements, including increases in:

  • Mental wellness
  • Energy level
  • Happiness
  • Optimism
  • Relaxation
  • Relief
  • Calm
  • Mood
  • Mental clarity
  • Social support (by making new friends and spending more time with existing family and friends in VR)

Mental health improvements, including decreases in:

  • Anxiety symptoms
  • Social anxiety symptoms
  • Depression symptoms

How is VR therapy used for mental health?

Every day, community members are successfully using VR for their mental health improvement needs. Subsequently, there is a growing list of VR games and apps that are designed to help with mental health. Accordingly, each makes their own claims for what they can help with. Scroll down for a list of popular titles.

Will VR therapy work for me?

Before you start anything, discuss with your primary care provider. Overall results vary person to person based on a lot of factors. This can include what the impairments are, the therapy goals you want and your medical background. Plan on trying lots of different VR games and apps. It is important to find ones that can help with your goals. In addition, you need to enjoy them so that you’ll keep coming back to play.

What are the next steps?

There are easy steps to get started:
1) Get a VR headset
2) Choose what to improve
3) Download a game and play
Scroll down to get started!

Step 1) Get a VR headset

Meta Quest 2 – There are lot of VR headsets, and this one is our recommendation. Popular, low price point (compared to other headsets), easy to setup, easy to learn, lots of games and apps, and doesn’t require any other hardware to run (like a VR-enabled computer).

When choosing a VR headset, make sure to read what additional equipment is needed to make it run (if any), how much room it requires for use, and the selection of games and apps it has. Consequently, not all VR headsets have access to the same content.

Step 2) Choose what to improve

Mental Wellness
Starter Recommendation: TRIPP
TRIPP is a research and science-backed app that helps with calm and focus. Guided meditations, breathing exercises, mini-games and frequently added new content helps with overall mindfulness. Beautiful, thoughtful environments add to the overall experience.

Top things it may help with:
Anxiety – Users have reported a significant improvement in anxious feelings
Calm – Levels of overall calm have increased with use
Relaxation – Users have stated they feel enhanced relaxation with use of the app

Fun Note – TRIPP’s development team consults with neuroscience and psychiatric advisors as they design content for the app, ensuring it is top-notch.
Anxiety Management
Starter Recommendation: Nature Treks VR
Nature Treks VR allows you to experience calm, relaxation and peace by escaping into different beautiful environments. Worlds are filled with sounds and over 60 different animals to discover on your journey. The app also allows you to take control of the environments, creating enjoyment from altering the weather, timing of the day and shaping your own world.

Top things it may help with:
Anxiety – Users have reported the escape into the different environments has a significant impact on anxiety
Mental Wellness – Users have reported use of the app has improved overall feelings of mental wellness
Depression – Users have stated decreased feelings of depression

Fun Note – The Nature Treks VR team aren’t just developers running a business, they are passionate about using VR for mental health and well-being!
Mental Clarity (including cognitive impairment management such as chemotherapy-associated cognitive impairments)
Starter Recommendation: Beat Saber

Top things it may help with:
Mental Clarity – Users have reported playing the game has improved their mental clarify and focus
Mood – Users have stated improved overall mood after play
Anxiety – Playing has been reported with a decrease in feelings of anxiety

Fun Note – There is a large community of users that create custom songs for playing in Beat Saber, guaranteeing an endless supply of experiences.
Depression Management
Starter Recommendation: Maloka
Maloka is a platform that inspires you to build consistency in your mindfulness practice through guided meditations and mindful movements. Prepare to be transported to your own meditative island, exploring expert-design mindfulness portals and interacting with your personal spirit companion.

Top things it may help with:
Depression – Users have reported decreased feelings of depression with use of the app
Calm – Significantly increased levels of calm have been associated with the app
Relaxation – Users have stated that they feel an enhanced level of calm with use

Fun Note – I love their mission statement: “Our mission is to help 100M people meditate consistently – because mindfulness is the key to self-reflection and growth.”

Pain Management
Starter Recommendation: Alcove
Alcove is a calming app with a variety of enjoyable experiences that can turn the focus away from pain. It is filled with features that can help with pain levels, including hanging out with family and friends, watching videos, listening to classical music, visiting places in the world, performing breathing exercises and experiencing guided meditation.

Top things it may help with:
Pain Reduction – The features included help to distract from and calm pain levels, improving overall body comfort
Energy Level Improvement – Improved pain levels can contribute to improved overall energy level and joy during the day
Fatigue Reduction – A decrease in pain levels can help decrease unnecessary mental focus on the body, leading to decreased fatigue levels

Fun Note – Alcove has many features that can be enjoyed together with other VR friends and family, or personally on your own!
Relaxation
Starter Recommendation: Real Fishing VR
Real Fishing VR is a game where you can relax and fish in real-world fishing locations. Highly rated by many users, enjoy catching various species while filling up your collective aquarium. Users can also listen to Spotify or watch YouTube videos while playing, enhancing the experience.

Top things it may help with:
Relaxation – Users have reported a high degree of feelings of relaxation during play
Escape – Users have reported playing feels like a wonderful escape from the real-world
Relief – Feelings of relief are enhanced by gameplay

Fun Note – The game has multiple modes of realism and difficulty, allowing for enjoyment for those who know how to fish well and those that don’t!

Step 3) Download a game and play

Download one of the starter games mentioned above and play, it’s that simple! Finding games you love to play is critical, as it will keep you coming back time and time again, helping towards the improvements you want.

Summary

Virtual reality (VR) is an amazing tool for therapy for many mental wellness topics.

Using the right VR games and equipment, people are improving their mental health everyday including anxiety, depression, and pain.

Grab a headset, some games, and get going to earn your upgraded health!

What to do now

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