Virtual environments have been used for more than two decades in research laboratories and university clinics to facilitate cognitive behavioral therapy and other therapeutic approaches in behavioral medicine. Research showing the value of virtual environments to physical rehabilitation also abounds; there is an impressive body of literature demonstrating efficacy and therapeutic value.
Until recently, the cost of virtual environments has been a barrier for acceptance outside of the university environment. Now, the reduced cost and increased voracity of virtual environments have made them practical for everyday use. A new generation of technology has evolved, based on multi-user social virtual worlds, aided by natural user interfaces such as the Kinect System.
This presentation will provide an overview of current virtual environment systems, and will explore their utility in clinical medicine, training, and supervision. Examples will be provided showing virtual environments that are being used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), provide social skills training to children with autism, provoke cue reactivity in substance abuse treatment, treat phobias and anxiety disorders, and other examples from clinical psychology and behavioral medicine. Additional examples will be presented from clinical rehabilitation; stroke and traumatic brain injury recovery, physical therapy and occupational therapy, and disability solutions.