Many of us grew up with the naive assumption that couches are the best used therapeutic tools in psychotherapy. But tools for psychotherapy are evolving in a much more complex environment than a designer's chaise lounge. In particular, virtual reality (VR) devices have the potential for appearing soon in many consulting rooms. The use of VR in medicine is not a novelty. Applications of virtual environments for health care have been developed in the following areas: surgical procedures (remote surgery or telepresence, augmented or enhanced surgery, and planning and simulation of procedures before surgery); preventive medicine and patient education; medical education and training; visualization of massive medical databases; and architectural design for health care facilities. However, there is a growing recognition that VR can play an important role in clinical psychology, too. To exploit and understand this potential is the main goal of the Telemedicine and Portable Virtual Environment in Clinical Psychology--VEPSY Updated--a European Community-funded research project (IST-2000-25323, http://www.vepsy.com). The project will provide innovative tools-telemedicine and portable-for the treatment of patients, clinical trials to verify their viability, and action plans for dissemination of its results to an extended audience-potential users and influential groups. The project will also develop different personal computer (PC)-based virtual reality modules to be used in clinical assessment and treatment. In particular, the developed modules will address the following pathologies: anxiety disorders; male impotence and premature ejaculation; and obesity, bulimia, and binge-eating disorders.
- clinical psychology
- virtual reality