A new study has started into the use of virtual reality (VR) in the treatment of children and adolescents with post-traumatic stress symptoms. For this PhD research Janniek de Jong works together with several care providers and Psylaris. The research is supported by a public-private partnership (PPS) of Health~Holland's Topsector Life Sciences & Health.
Of all children and young people who experience a traumatic event, one third (30%) develop post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSD). The so-called EMDR therapy (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) is often used to treat these symptoms. EMDR has proven to be an effective therapy in reducing the effects of trauma. However, many young people's symptoms return when they are confronted with the feared situation at home. VR therapy is a relatively new development.
VR therapy for PTSD
Virtual reality could help reduce this relapse in these young people. Psylaris has developed an application for EMDR therapy in a virtual reality environment, VR-based EMDR. The big advantage is that the youngsters do the therapy in their own environment. In this way, the young people can better prepare themselves for the confrontation with a traumatic event or situation.
The aim of the doctoral dissertation is to test the VR-based EMDR application in children aged 8 to 17 years with PTSD symptoms. The expectation that this virtual EMDR therapy will reduce the return of PTSD symptoms is partly based on the fact that VR-based EMDR promotes self-care in the family context.
Lower healthcare costs and shorter waiting lists in the mental health sector
The researchers also hypothesise that VR therapy will improve the quality of life of young PTSD sufferers and that the use of this form of VR will ultimately lead to shorter waiting lists in adolescent healthcare and a reduction in healthcare costs.