Virtual Reality has been romanticized a lot lately. A lot of people say that it is “our future.” Why not? It can be used to create jobs. It can be used for entertainment value. It has even been sensationalized on the news.
How good is it really?
Some people claim that VR works like a therapy. VR works in concert with CBT(Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). Therapists claim that it can reach into the person's mind and have access to their emotions without needing to go to a casino. This therapy can pinpoint the triggers based on the information the person supplies to the therapist.
How does that work?
The person uses their imagination and mentally places themselves in the casino. They imagine images and scenarios taking place. The person then identifies potential triggers as they describe the scene to the doctor. The doctor asks questions and tries to get to the root of the problem. The doctor asks what is going through the person's mind, at every turn.
Then, the doctor can help them identify which people, places, and things they need to stay away from. They can identify which parts prove to be more vulnerable and risky for the patient.
The patient is not actually in the casino. The VR is creating the environment based on what the person is describing in their mind. It is real enough for them to pay attention to possible compulsions. Doctors figure that if they are aware enough in the VR world that will transfer to the physical location. VR therapy can help them identify the triggers before they start.
What is the downside?
There are some downsides to this VR therapy.
Number one: Most people are not skilled or have the self-awareness to place themselves in the VR world. There are a lot of people who do not have the imagination for this.
Number two: A recent study concluded that VR therapy has only been successful for 60% of the population, at best. Doctors have shown that this VR therapy is close enough to the real thing that they can get their patients to be very responsive when they need to be.
Number Three: Some worry that the VR therapy can trigger someone enough to relapse when they are in recovery.
A doctor's view of their patient's gambling problems
Most doctors agree that their patient's gambling addiction serves an emotional need, and not necessarily a monetary one. They are addicted to everything about it, including the rush, which also serves an emotional purpose.
Other people are going to look at the VR and say, “this is not real.” They are not gamblers. They are not addicted to the process. A gambler is going to see something real. They see everything from the types of slot machines to the potential for winning. They relate it to the reward system. Most gamblers have it preconditioned in their brains.
They see the lights in their brain. It is sort of like a scan. They smile. They feel ready to go. They can walk through the VR, and their brain assumes the role of the “gambler.”
What about patients who are triggered enough to relapse?
Doctors and therapists are very much aware of this.
“It is the elephant in the room, so to speak. There is an inherent danger in using this type of therapy, but there is a danger in doing a lot of things. Sometimes you cannot make an omelet without breaking some eggs.”