Patients at the Janus Community Clinic in Santa Cruz are using avatars to learn and practice new skills for combatting addiction.
The project was profiled in an NBC Bay Area News piece and features Dr. Ivana Steigman, co-founder of InWorld Solutions and developer of the avatar based recovery program.
“Virtual worlds,” according to Steigman, “expose patients to the triggers that set off their symptoms, with hope that those symptoms will diminish. For example, a recovering alcoholic will visit a virtual bar and be confronted with all of the temptations and subsequent decisions that occur in the real world.”
Patients “see” their behaviors from multiple perspectives, leading to a better understanding of their role in making decisions. Immersion in a virtual world also gives them a chance to practice new skills that lead to better choices and outcomes.
Although the technology is not meant to replace traditional face-to-face therapy, it has proven to be an effective complementary therapy for treating addiction as well as in helping veterans deal with PTSD.
Partner Thrive Research developed the content and technology platform for the project. The company used components from its evidence-based online training programs, licensed from top universities such as Stanford University and University of Chicago, for depression and anxiety in adolescents and young adults.
The program developers will present the pilot program results to the American Psychology Association conference in Washington, D.C. in August.
For more information, see the NBC News Bay Area video: