Virtual Reality (VR) as therapy

I was fortunate to be part of Cornerstone's Virtual Reality panel discussion* last week ( ). A coming together of people from film, software, hardware, local authorities, cafcass, 3rd sector and myself as a therapist in adoption and fostering.

Virtual Reality  is an emerging technology. I spoke to people who had been involved from the early days around 2013. That's so new. As a technology, it's hardly more than a toddler. But if it took 20+ years to get from brick-like mobile phones to the latest iPhone, the progress for VR will be so much quicker, they predict. VR is not just here to stay, it will be transforming so much of what we do in so many ways. We need to take control of this possibility. And that means thinking about how we can use it creatively and effectively in therapy for looked after and adopted children.

I confess I only used VR for the first time 2 months ago, at the VR lab at IOPPN @ KCL ( using both cheap goggles and the amazing Oculus Rift. I was blown away by what it can do. But turning that wow factor into something safe and powerful for helping children and young people live happier lives is more of a challenge. Luckily there is already research out there to help us understand how to do this. How to augment what we know works to make it better, quicker, more powerful, and to reach out and engage more children & young people.

I've also spoken to therapists who worry about 'the risks' of VR, but I've yet to hear a clear account of what the risks might be specific to VR. There is always going to be the possibility of some risks emerging if you are, for example, helping children and young people to work through traumatic events, but these should already be assessed and managed clinically. So depending on the nature of the work, risks that arise need to be managed by the clinician whether using VR or not.

Overall, I can imagine different ways of utilising VR and immersive technologies with different intensities and different levels of therapist involvement to suit different children. But these approaches will still be based on what we know, alongside existing therapeutic approaches. At least at first... so I'm really pleased for the opportunity to be working alongside the dynamic team at Cornerstone, and their other stakeholders to try to make this a possibility for Looked After and Adopted children now.

*You can see photos of the event here