Hypnotherapy and virtual reality sessions are becoming more popular, but it’s still quite new. So what do we already know? And how can it help me with my anxiety?
Hypnotherapy might seem more conventional and a bit less mysterious when we add virtual reality (VR) into the mix! Let's take a look at virtual reality hypnotherapy and how it helps us overcome challenges.
What is virtual reality hypnotherapy?
Virtual reality hypnotherapy is a computer-generated simulation of an environment, such as a calming forest or beach, that clients can interact with whilst wearing a VR headset to feel more relaxed. The hypnotherapist can then use suggestion therapy and other therapeutic techniques to deepen the effectiveness of the session. They can facilitate the session, getting the most out of the computer-generated set-up — helping you overcome any specific issues you’re having.
Being transported into a virtual world can not only feel enjoyable, but it can also magnify the effectiveness of hypnotherapy by making the experience more of a sensory one. You are able to interact with the environment which makes the whole thing feel even more real.
The virtual environments are not always poles apart from our usual routine. Sometimes these VR hypnotherapy sessions can feel much more true to life, where you can finish tasks, accomplish goals, and even reduce pain.
How can virtual reality hypnotherapy help me overcome anxiety?
Virtual reality hypnotherapy is actually seeing the changes you want to make in your life, helping you feel better about potential anxious situations. It’s a bit like exposure therapy in that you have the opportunity to explore (and hopefully overcome) something that either bothers you or interferes with your life in a manageable way.
As it’s a controlled environment, you’re reassured that you can come out of it at any time. So you could recreate a public speaking situation, getting on a plane, going to the supermarket, or anything that causes you anxiety, as a way of gradually building up the resources to actually carry this out in real life. It’s a bit like a boot camp, helping you cope with anxiety triggers. When it's time to actually make that speech, visit the dentist, or remove the spider from the bath, it feels more familiar and doable because you have already experienced it before in a virtual reality hypnotherapy session beforehand.
What do hypnotherapists think? There are mixed ideas about this approach. Some hypnotherapists feel like it may be able assist their clients who struggle to be imaginative during sessions. And that using technology to enhance our lives is the way of the future. Others feel like it could prevent their clients from developing their own creativity, relying too much on external stimuli. They believe that rehearsing something using standard hypnosis alone should be effective enough.
Finding a virtual reality hypnotherapist
If you are thinking about finding a hypnotherapist who specialises in virtual reality, there are some things you could look out for to make sure you have the best possible experience. It’s always important to check if they are a member of a professional body. Hypnotherapy is currently unregulated so it’s a good idea to check if they have experience in this particular area. Word of mouth is always a good avenue. Virtual reality hypnotherapy isn’t necessarily the best approach for everyone, but it might provide a space to help you practise the skills needed in challenging situations.
You can read more about how virtual therapy is being adopted by other wellbeing professionals, such as counsellors, to help people with self-critical thoughts associated with depression.