Virtual Reality Versus Phobias

Umeå Institute of DesignSweden

Disrupting, Empowering

Concept / Student


Kallirroi Pouliadou


Many of us have fears that to others seem irrational. They make us avoid things or circumstances and block us from enjoying life as it is. A lot of otherwise healthy individuals seek medical treatment to overcome their phobias. With exposure therapy and supportive guidance the patients adjust and gradually change the behavior that arises in the moment of anxiety. Exposure treatment through virtual reality allows individuals to confront the feared conditions, even when the context is hard to experience in real life.

Fearproof, the envisioned service, is a support program for remote treatment of phobias through virtual reality. It fits in the category ‘Empowering’, as this program helps individuals become a better, braver version of themselves.

The concept has a strong focus on the patient and therapist’s alliance and the therapist’s intervention during the exposure in real time. Through filling out an initial assessment, patients are matched with a therapist to receive customized support that helps them build trust between each other.

One of the strengths of this concept is the use of mobile VR, to provide remote treatment at the patient’s convenience. This makes exposure therapy accessible to a broader audience and more cost and time efficient both for the patient and the therapist. In the first exposure, the patient captures a 360 degrees image of their home and uploads it to the program’s platform. The therapist is then projected in a virtual representation of the patient’s home.

Through gradually more challenging exposure stages, the patients adopt strategies that allow them to confront their fears. In parallel, the therapist’s presence in the exposure becomes more discreet, as the patients become stronger. The users are able to interact with the environment, and they become more pro-active in the exposure to the feared stimuli.

A progress report is accessible to allow the patients to reflect and celebrate their success. With additional home assignments and reading material, they grow their awareness and are more prepared for future encounters with the object of their phobia.

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