What could be more horrifying, for obsessive compulsive person, than virtually going into an extremely dirty public toilet? Such experience could yet help him get rid of his trouble, Stéphane Bouchard, co-founder of cyberpsychology Laboratory of the Université du Québec en Outaouais, which develops virtual reality applications to treat various addictions and anxiety disorders . Mr. Bouchard took part Wednesday in the conference “How it transforms virtual reality health care?” At the Notman House in Montreal. Metro took the opportunity to discuss with him.
How the possibilities of virtual reality mental health does have evolved since the foundation of your laboratory (in 1999)?
Very much. At first, our proposals fell more than science fiction. The technology was complex, costly and hardly managed to treat some disorders such as phobia of spiders. Now the technology has democratized and can treat a variety of mental illnesses, addiction to gambling to the eating disorders.
How can you treat pathological gambling, precisely?
In my office you put virtual reality goggles. You can walk down the street, go to an ATM, go play a video lottery machine. If you wager $ 2000, you can do it. In full therapy, you live your desire to play. It helps pinpoint problems, develop strategies and put them into action.
Can you give me other examples of promising projects?
People with PTSD must tame their memories to be able to digest emotionally. It can therefore help victims of road accidents by making them relive an accident and everything that follows.
To desensitize people who have a phobia, you can gradually put them in touch with what makes them afraid. For social anxiety, for example, patients are asked to make oral presentations or talk to a convenience store tenant. They retain control of what happens, which is reassuring, and their therapists can assist them in there.
We also had a project with the Canadian Armed Forces to prepare soldiers to handle stress in the field. Having had such training, they are able to deal more quickly injured, for example, and save lives.
These techniques are already available to citizens?
There are already clinical In Virtuo, Gatineau, using our software. In Montreal, some look the opportunity to buy them. There are a few years, we could talk about exorbitant costs, but today you can have a virtual reality device at $ 700 or $ 800 and software on anxiety disorders for $ 5,000. It would be interesting if it happens in our hospitals.