Virtual Reality Medical Institute (VRMI) is a Belgian SME headquartered in the Brussels Life Science Incubator on the Catholic University’s Brussels campus in Woluwe Saint -Lambert. Established in December 2006, it is a separate but affiliated corporation with Virtual Reality Medical Center (VRMC), a California Medical Corporation established in May 2001. Its affiliated non-profit organizations are Interactive Media Institute (IMI), a 501c3 non-profit located at VRMC’s corporate headquarters in San Diego; and the International Association of CyberPsychology, Training, & Rehabilitation (iACToR), an international member association located at VRMI’s corporate headquarters in Brussels.
VRMI currently uses virtual reality exposure therapy (3-dimensional computer simulation) in combination with physiological monitoring and feedback to treat panic and anxiety disorders. These conditions include specific phobias such as fear of flying, fear of driving, fear of heights, fear of public speaking, fear of thunderstorms, claustrophobia, agoraphobia, arachnophobia, social phobia, panic disorder. General stress management and relaxation skills are taught for stress-related disorders.
Virtual reality exposure therapy places the client in a computer-generated world where they "experience" the various stimuli related to their phobia. The client wears a head-mounted display with small TV monitors and stereo earphones to receive both visual and auditory cues.
After an intake session and skill building sessions to teach the patient how to control automatic responses to anxiety-provoking situations, the therapist and client collaborate to create a hierarchy of anxiety-inducing situations. In careful, controlled stages, the client is exposed to these virtual experiences that elicit increasingly higher levels of anxiety. Each stage can be repeated until the client is comfortable with the experience and satisfied with their response. At every step, the therapist can see and hear what the client is experiencing in the virtual world. If the level of anxiety becomes overwhelming, the client can return to a less stressful level of treatment, or simply remove the head-mounted display and exit the virtual world.
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