Virtual reality that helps overcome phobias

Escenario de PsicoVR deseñado para a cinofobia, ou medo aos cans, que se pode adaptar ás necesidades de cada tratamento. Fonte: PsicoVR.

Sometimes, fear, stress or panic leaves people helpless and passive. It can be the fear of getting on a plane, being on the top of a building, large crowds, certain bugs… Science has identified a plethora of phobias, which make the daily life of millions of people a living hell.


In this, psychiatry and medicine have a lot to say. And now, a Galician company has discovered an alternative way to beat these phobias. PsicoVR has come up with an idea that helps knock down that phobia wall, which is virtual reality.

PsicoVR is the brainchild of ​​three young people from the small bucolic town of Pontevedra –Lucía Maneiro, Sonia Tourón and Rafael Tourón-. The novel idea comes one of his children was paralyzed with fear “every time a dog approached him”, Lucia explains, and through a virtual reality game, they researched about how the child behaved when faced with these experiences and phobias. “We saw that since the 90s research has been done on the application of virtual reality in psychology“.

They concluded, therefore, that it was possible to live through experiences similar to phobias, but without the dangers of exposing oneself directly to them in the real environment, exposure is very controlled.” Lucía Maneiro adds that “unlike the usual therapies, in which it is proposed to reconstruct the situation that causes fear, in virtual reality we are in on it”. And, on the other hand, “the fear of facing what frightens us the most is what often postpones the decision to start treatment”.

The reception by doctors and mental health professionals in the sector is being “a positive one”

And also, “in case the situation becomes intolerable, you can quit at anytime”. The reception by doctors and mental health professionals in the sector is being “a positive one”. They have already participated in clinical psychology conferences and trials, and they are starting to get into the business phase, with clients in Pontevedra, A Coruña and Barcelona. And in just over a year of work, PsicoVR was also part of the Via Galicia accelerator, in addition to Vodafone Connecting for Good and Ría de Pontevedra; and they received two prizes: the second prize of innovation of AJE Pontevedra in 2017 and the second prize of the professional category of Maker Faire Galicia, also in 2017.

In addition to Glossophobia, the software developed by PsicoVR, the company offers scenarios for two other phobias (agoraphobia, or fear of open spaces, and fear of dogs) and are moving forward in two other scenarios: claustrophobia, or fear of confined spaces ; and acrophobia, or fear of heights. They also hope to start soon with cynophobia, or the development of scenarios for fear of flying (aerophobia) and driving (amaxophobia).


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