Erin Bogdanski of Thera Inc is on a mission to provide VR Therapy to the underserved

START IT UP NYC
Nov 4 · 5 min read

Writing & Research: Hannah Lopez , Editor: Nico Hodel

An innovative solution that offers virtual reality therapy for children and adults alike, VR company Thera is providing a software application in which patients can feel comfortable opening up in VR to certified therapists.

Tech-savvy youngsters that have trouble opening up to a therapist in person have already benefited from Thera’s virtual environments in therapy. Thera allows them to share their deepest feelings in a VR environment that they feel comfortable in, and even allows the therapist to take the form of a customizable VR avatar.

Virtual reality therapy means that children don’t feel triggered by the environment or person they’re talking to, and also removes some of the stigmas of therapy by making it an interesting, engaging, tech-forward process.

Patients can get help when they need it, choosing from a selection of online therapists. Likewise, therapists can expand their practice by treating patients remotely. In this way, virtual reality therapy is offering a new and innovative approach for the modern, hectic lifestyles of patients and therapists alike.

Founder of Thera Erin Bogdanski, herself a therapist with an extensive background treating children and post-combat veterans, saw VR therapy as an ideal approach for specific groups of underserved patients.

It’s no surprise, as VR therapy for veterans has already shown positive results when treating disorders like PTSD.

Bogdanski’s experienced network of therapists including Valerie Beltran, Edina Adler, Nathan Villarante, and several others have already seen the benefits of VR therapy and integrated the product into their practice as needed.

Virtual Reality Therapy for Children and Recurring Nightmares

Another interesting use case of VR therapy is of treating children with recurring nightmares. Children suffering from night terrors, or a more generalized fear and anxiety that can often manifest in dreams could potentially derive great benefit through VR therapy.

According to Boston University, technologies that allow users to control simulated imagery — instead of imagery created by their minds — could have therapeutic effects.

In some cases, symptoms like fear and anxiety, often immediately treated with medication, could be responsive to VR therapy sessions.

This could be the reason why VR therapy company Thera has garnered such interest from investors, therapists, and users seeking to alleviate the suffering of over-medicated young people.

As Thera Founder Erin Bogdanski stated during a recent interview with Thrive Global, addressing the deep problems of the health care and mental wellness industry is one of the primary reasons she started Thera.

Nationwide Expansion of Virtual Reality Therapy

Therapists are eager to explore new and emerging technologies like VR to treat patients. Since the field of VR therapy is still so new, some companies provide therapists with a virtual reality kit, which allows them to set up an online profile, and integrate VR into their practice.

In fact, Thera is accepting applications from qualified therapists who would like to explore how VR therapy might benefit their patients. They’re focused on building a network of therapists in the Northeast in New York and New Jersey, having already gotten many therapists on the West Coast to begin using the product.

In line with these recent goals, Thera has been accepted into the 2020 cohort of Start It Up NYC — an agency and tech accelerator that helps to expand the awareness and adoption of innovative technologies.

Virtual Reality Therapy for Veterans

Many clinics are developing virtual reality products to help treat PTSD in post-combat veterans. One Orlando-based clinic was awarded a $13 million grant to pursue the development of such a product.

Therapists making use of Thera have also found benefits in using VR therapy to treat veterans. While many VR products focus purely on exposure therapy through VR, using it as a tool to simulate trauma-triggering events, Thera is exploring different approaches as well.

Through Thera, therapists can provide hands-on guidance and communication to veterans in order to help them to process past traumatic events. While doing so, the veteran can choose from a variety of different VR environments. That patient can find an environment that helps him or her to open up about past trauma.

This combination of simulated environments with real-time communication by a certified therapist has shown very promising results when treating patients suffering from PTSD.

Virtual Reality Therapy for Introverts

Many introverts struggle with in-person communication, particularly in a therapy setting. Some patients have even suffered from past trauma that can be brought back up by a therapist’s physical appearance.

For these types of patients, VR therapy presents a particular opportunity. By stepping into a virtual environment and being treated by therapists in the form of a customizable VR avatar of their choosing, patients can feel a greater sense of ease and comfort while speaking about their deepest feelings.

How VR Therapy Expands Access to Affordable Mental Health Counseling

Many people throughout the country can simply not afford mental health counseling. Others might not have a therapist or psychologist local to them which is a good suite for their particular needs.

Bogdanski aims to use VR, and other innovative technologies, to solve some of these pressing problems in our health care model. While many patients without access to a local therapist would immediately resort to medication, VR therapy can offer them a lower-cost alternative to in-person sessions.

With more people having access to mental health counseling, Bogdanksi hopes to curb an over-reliance on pharmaceuticals to improve mental health. She perceives the overprescription of these powerful drugs, particularly to children, as a real problem that must be addressed.

The Future of Therapy and Mental Health Counseling

It’s difficult to predict the future of any industry. But, as a new and emerging technology, VR is poised to disrupt many different sectors, and make us reconsider many assumptions that were taken for granted.

It would come as no surprise that mental health is included in that. Just as virtual reality is already having the effect of drastically augmenting users’ perceptions and mental state, it will, no doubt, be used to address different mental health conditions. If this process happens under the careful guidance of mental health counselors, psychologists, and therapists, it will have a safer and more reliably positive effect.

Mental health problems have consequences and those suffering are bound to seek relief through new technologies. As VR becomes more ubiquitous, companies like Thera aim to make sure that VR is used as a productive, humanizing response to those conditions.

If you are a therapist interested in incorporating VR into your practice, or interested in receiving VR therapy, reach out to theravr.info@gmail.com

Learn more about Thera here: www.theravr.io

Valence Digital Magazine

In the United States, innovative companies are being built, complex problems are being solved, and technological ground is being broken every day. Valence Digital is committed to writing informative pieces on technology and sharing the stories of inspiring leaders.

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Valence Digital Magazine

In the United States, innovative companies are being built, complex problems are being solved, and technological ground is being broken every day. Valence Digital is committed to writing informative pieces on technology and sharing the stories of inspiring leaders.

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