Weill Cornell Medicine Psychiatry

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Virtual Reality Treatment Program

The collaboration between technology and medicine has created new treatment options for psychiatric problems. One innovative example is the application of Virtual Reality (VR) technology to established psychotherapeutic principles and techniques for the treatment of anxiety disorders.

The Program for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Studies is a Weill Cornell Medicine program, applying academic principles to the innovative use of virtual reality therapy. It is a pioneer in the employment of virtual reality exposure to treat a number of anxiety and stress-related disorders, including fear of flying, fear of storms, fear of heights, fear of bridges, fear of public speaking and World Trade Center-induced posttraumatic stress disorder. virtual reality exposure Therapy has been found to be an effective, cost-efficient treatment method for these types of disorders. The program's psychologists are specially trained in the treatment of phobias and have had extensive experience in the field.

The Program

VR offers several advantages for both clinicians and patients:

  • For those who are reluctant to engage in recollection of feared memories, VR provides a sensory-rich and evocative therapeutic environment, allowing them to experience a "sense of presence" in the virtual setting.
  • VR technology allows for gradual exposure to increasingly feared situations that can be carefully monitored and tailored to the individual patient's needs.
  • VR environments can be manipulated above and beyond the constraints of the everyday world, creating new possibilities for therapeutic action.

As a result, VR therapy can increase a person's feelings of self-efficacy and of being active agents of their own experience. Patients have often been found to be more willing to consider VR treatment than other forms of exposure therapy. The VR world does not include the same risks as returning to the actual feared environment, and patients can feel supported in knowing that the therapist viewing the virtual environment is sharing in their experience.

The Treatment Experience

During VR therapy, patients wear a virtual reality helmet that positions two goggle-sized miniature computer monitor screens close to the patient's eyes. The scenery in VR changes as the users move their head orientation (e.g. virtual objects in front of the user get closer as the user leans forward in the real world). The combination of these techniques gives patients a uniquely compelling experience of "being there" in the virtual world and contributes greatly to therapeutic success.

Admissions and Referrals

For further information about the Virtual Reality Program or to schedule an appointment, please call (212) 821-0783.

​Weill Cornell Medicine Psychiatry

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NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center ​Payne Whitney Clinic 525 East 68th Street New York, NY 10065

Westchester Division
21 Bloomingdale Road White Plains, NY 10605