VIRTUAL THERAPY C U R I N G P H O B I A S A N D F E A R S W I T H T H E N E W E S T V R T E C H N O L O G Y
C O N F U S E S
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If someone asked me about virtual reality (VR) two months ago, I would think of computer games and the experience of a roller coaster at home. Little did I know that VR could be used in so many ways. This modern tool can be used to show the news in innovative ways. With VR you can even have the experience of being in a war zone in Syria for instance.
During our research with our editorial team about virtual reality, we’ve found out that along showing the news, virtual reality is also being used in the health care. In this edition of Virtual Therapy, we focus on virtual reality being used in the mental healthcare.
On page 4 you can read the article of our copywriter Julia on how VR therapy can help people with phobias. In that article you can read some interesting quotes of therapist Lieke Dodkin on how she is using virtual reality to help her clients with their phobias.
Our copywriter Lisanne talks about the negative effects of virtual reality in her interesting column on page 9. Is using virtual reality always ethical? She discusses if the use of virtual reality can be harmful to society.
This and much more is to be read in this magazine. If you’d always want to know what it's like to walk in other people's shoes, you can read all about it further on. Our team is very proud to present this magazine.
I hope you’ll enjoy it!
Iris van Schie
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CONTENT 4 FACING YOUR FEAR IN A SAFE ENVIRONMENT They are pioniers in the Netherlands: Therapists Lieke and Erick tell us about how the use of VR helps their clients.
6 VIRTUAL REALITY CONFUSES THE BRAIN The brain has some struggles when you use VR glasses. What exactly? Read it on page 6.
8 FUTURE THERAPY What are the options of VR and therapy? Read more about it in this infographic.
9 MY OWN WORLD The line between real and fake is slowly fading away with the use increasing use of VR.
10 AN EYE-OPENING STROLL IN THE PARK Just stroll through the park; with a touch of VR it can take away prejudice.
12 OUR 360° VIDEO Many people considers dancing a form of therapy. Take a look around the dance floor with our 360° video. You find it on the back of the magazine.
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FACING YOUR FEAR IN A SAFE ENVIRONMENT At a tiny office in the middle of a suburban neighborhood in Haarlem, we spoke to Erick Evenhuis and Lieke Dodkin. They are the founders of Malintis, a psychological clinic that uses virtual reality as a form of treatment. WRITTEN
Erick Evenhuis and Lieke Dodkin
‘In VR people are able to confront
You’d might think that fears that
started the very first VR-therapy-
their fears whilst remaining in a safe
fears like that are so specific, that
clinic in the Netherlands in 2017.
environment,’ Lieke adds. According
there wouldn’t be a proper VR
Nowadays they still seem to be the
to her this is the main reason why the
treatment for. This doesn’t have to be
only Dutch psychologists that use VR-
use of VR in therapy is such an
the case. Erick and Lieke not only use
therapy in almost all of their sessions.
effective tool. ‘Rationally, the clients
VR-techniques, but they also design
‘In the USA it’s huge. The Netherlands
know the VR images aren’t real, so
them. If a client has a fear that isn't
is lacking behind, but I’m confident it
this makes them know they’re in a
connected to a VR therapy
will grow in the future, because it has
safe place. But their mind is still
application yet, the two psychologists
a lot of benefits,’ Lieke says.
tricked into perceiving the images as
get to work. ‘If we hear about an
real. This means they’re more willing
uncommon fear, we will try to make a
Both Erick and Lieke were already
to actually face their fears and have
VR experience for it.’, Lieke points
working as psychologists when they
more confidence to push their limits.’
met each other. But
Erick interrupts: ‘The client told us he
they discovered they had something
dared to do things he never thought
else in common. ‘We both wanted to
he would do, after just six sessions of
start our own clinic, were we could
therapy. Eventually, he even crossed
combine therapy with creativity,’
a square without second thought.’
Lieke explains. So that's what they did. ‘Then we stumbled upon the use
Besides being in a safe environment,
VR. When we saw how much faster
another advantage of VR therapy is
clients conquered their fears through
that the therapist is always able to be
it, we knew we’d discovered
there while a client is facing their
something great,’ Erick adds.
fears. This wouldn’t be the case with regular forms of therapy. ‘Imagine if
'We were able to bring the outside world into his home'
someone goes to a regular therapist for his fear of flying. In that case we
After doing a lot of research and
wouldn’t be able to just go and buy a
tests on VR, Lieke and Erick were
plane ticket all the time,’ Erick claims.
ready to help their first client. Their
‘With VR therapy we’d be beside them
first client was a man with
throughout the whole way.’
Erick has always been very technical. He used to develop android apps on the side, as a hobby. ‘But I never wanted to actually work in that branch, I don’t like sitting and typing all day. Designing and using VR techniques in therapy turned out to be the perfect combination.’
Climb back on Besides VR being used to simulate a fear you’ve got, it can also be used
agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is a phobia where you have a fear of
Tailor-made VR experiences
entering crowded open places. ‘This
Agoraphobia is quite a well-known
anxiety disorder makes it hard for
fear. Just like the fear of spiders, the
people to leave their house,’ Erick
fear of heights or the fear of flying.
explains. Erick and Lieke visited their
But there are more far more phobias
clients home with a pair of VR
out there then one might think.
goggles. Erick: ‘With the help of VR,
Examples of this would be the fear of
we were able to bring the outside
small buttons and coins, the fear of
world into his home,’
fruit, or the fear of cotton balls.
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'The client told us he dared to do things he never thought he would do, after just six sessions of therapy'
for the opposite. To create a space that makes you feel safe. ‘We use this to treat people with post-traumatic stress disorder,’ Lieke explains. ‘If you treat someone with PTSD, it’s important to create a safe place. You let them think about the place that makes them the most comfortable.
L I E KE
AND You ask them to imagine that place. What does it look like? How does it feel? Then you will let them associate that place with a certain word. When they hear the word, they can go back to that place in their head. That way
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we train the client to comfort him or herself. But in order to create this safe place in your head, you’ll need to have some imagination. If the client can’t come up with this perfect place, VR can create it for them.’ So with the help of VR they are able to create any sort of comfortable environment, in which the client can fully immerse whilst still being able to talk to the therapist.
People that suffer from a traumatic experience can also go to the place they don’t dare to come anymore due to their trauma. Imagine if you had a car crash, and it resulted in mentally not being able to drive again. It is important to climb your way back up, step by step. In a VR-car its not possible to crash, and in small step you can get used to driving again.
The two psychologists don't exactly know the numbers of clients they’ve had from the start of their clinic. But what they do know is that they have opened up the way to therapy for young people. There is often a the stigma around young people and therapy. But with these modern methods that group of people is also quicklier drawn into going to therapy, and thus being able to work on themselves. Lieke concludes: ‘For youngsters it might be easier to say that they’re following a VR health programme, instead of that they’re visiting their psychiatrist. This way they are still able to get work done on themselves, without having to deal with negative stigmas.’ Erick remains hopeful on the future of VR therapy. ‘VR therapy is the future. New developments are done all the time, and advances in quality are being made. The treatment will only get better in the future. It’s only a matter of time before other VR therapy centers make there way in the Netherlands!’
VIRTUAL THERAPY 05
VIRTUAL REALITY CONFUSES THE BRAIN
Virtual reality (VR) is gaining popularity. It’s not only used in the gaming industry anymore; education and healthcare are also exploring the application of VR techniques. What are the effects that VR actually have on your brain? To find out, we have to take a look into the computer of your body. First it’s important to know how the brain works. The brain is an essential part of the human body. We have the ability to feel, see, hear, smell and taste. Those signals (also known as perceptions) are reached through our brain. The perceptions are combined together there, with the purpose to give them meaning. This is how we're able to see and hear chirping birds, and this is how we’re able to recognize them as such.
The human brain also has the ability to predict what will happen after a certain event. In new situations, it’s good to have such senses.
Small part of the brain knows where you are Using VR glasses has an effect on the hippocampus, a small part of the brain that’s responsible for memorizing things and adapting behavior. It’s basically your inner GPS. This piece of your brain makes you aware of where you are,
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based on all perceptions you’re getting. This part of the brain is also the part where diseases such as dementia, autism and PTSD can be located. So it’s safe to say it’s a pretty essential piece.
Jaap Murrer, professor in neuropsychology at the University of Amsterdam, sees the hippocampus
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as a part which links the senses to each other. ‘This small element of the brain sends and receives signals,’ the professor explains. ‘When you remember things, the signals come together.’ Murrer gives a practical example: ‘If you see a familiar face, and you know the name, this signs come together and the hippocampus gives the information and you recognize him’.
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Research done on rats show that the activity of their
Professor Jaap Murre knows about this illness. ‘I had it as well. The
hippocampus increased a lot while they were in VR. In other
main reason is that there is a mismatch between the view of the
words: The brains of the rats were trying much harder to figure
eyes and what the digestion experiences,’ according to Murre. He
out where they were. In the new virtual area, the brain slowly
also tells the delay between the body movement and the same
developed a new map by taking account to all senses. Rats
effect in the virtual environment causes the cybersickness to occur.
were used in this investigation, due to their hippocampus being very similar to the hippocampus of a human. Murre says: ‘In this
Brain reacts on what you see
experiment they use rats, but the human cognition is less clear.’
Another consequence of the use of VR, has to do with your empathy. Studies have shown that when a human is a totally
Getting dizzy by virtual reality
different person in a virtual environment, he starts to behave as the
Some people, in particular sensitive people, could get nauseous
person he is in VR. For example: when an adult is a small child in a
during their first experiences in VR. According to scientists, this
virtual environment, he starts to react like a small child. The VR user
happens because some people's brains are having an
perceives the fake world as real.
experience of being placed in a new situation too quickly during their first time in VR. This results in nausea and dizzy feeling.
Some neurologists say there is still not enough known about the impact of immersive sensations on your brain. More research has to
The difference between the expectations of the human brain
be done in order to truly understand how the brain reacts to a
and what the virtual world present causes this phenomenon. In
virtual environment. Murre has some doubts of the power of virtual
common language this is called ‘cybersickness’. This illness
reality to decrease mental diseases, like PTSD or dementia. ‘I don’t
mostly appears whilst someone is moving in a virtual area, like
have an idea that it helps. To me it doesn't seem very necessary,
flying for instance. Programmers are trying to figure out how to
because the memories are very strong present in the brain,’ he
decrease this gap between real and virtual experiences.
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MY OWN WORLD WRITTEN
With the rise of Virtual Reality (VR), the line between
What would we perceive as real, and what would we
what is real and what is fake is fading away.
perceive as fake? Maybe by then fake would be the new
Consciousness is an important element of the human
real and real would be the new fake. Sometimes it
mind and spirit, but how do we protect that element
already seems like what’s fake is real. Instagram- and
when our reality is becoming less clear?
snapchat filters are capable of making your eyes twinkle more or giving you bunny-ears, that make you look like
According to the two philosophers Michael Madary and
you came straight out of the Playboy Mansion. Personally
Thomas Metzinger, we have already broken rules
I don’t understand why people (read; women) want to
regarding the ethical use of VR. Experiments and
look like they came out of the Playboy Mansion in the
research have been done with VR that have resulted in
first place, nevertheless these filters are immensely
negative psychological effects. Whether these
popular. With a VR headset, that will soon be affordable
psychological negative psychological effects are
for a lot more people, we will look even more ridiculous,
reversible remains to be seen.
and the world will seem even more ridiculous than it already is.
I already see myself going into therapy in the near future. Almost every millennial experiences mental issues or
We have filters, social media, VR, augmented reality,
sometimes even burnouts. It’s only a matter of time
video games, smartphones and so on. But we need to
before I’ll experience such things myself. It’s almost like it
keep in mind that this is fake. Of course it can be used
has to be that way. Soon we will be able to completely
for great things like curing phobias and fears, helping
turn off our real world and only ‘live’ in the world we like
with surgery, making people more healthy. But on the
the most. I ask myself if a bunch of youngsters wearing
other hand we are slowly neglecting our own reality, and
VR headsets is al were going to see in the future. Will we
that is something we must not give in to. it raises the
just be walking around, talking to an avatar in an unreal
question; why do we hate reality so much?
world inside our headset and our brain?
VIRTUAL THERAPY 09
AN EYEOPENING STROLL IN THE PARK WRITTEN
mood, I offered to take the picture. The girl with the camera hesitated. She was about to hand me her camera when others in the group gave her a disapproving look. She then suddenly said: ‘No, that’s alright sir, I uhm don’t like to be in pictures anyway.’ Why did I feel like she didn’t trust me? Did she really think I was going to steal her camera? And why did she call me sir? As far as I know im a 24-year old female student.
Upon walking further I passed a group of guys. They were playing loud music. One of the guys was sitting on his scooter, whilst the others were smoking cigarettes on a bench. Here we go again I thought. I was preparing myself for the looks and catcalling I normally get whilst passing groups of guys. Though I don’t want to, I always feel a little uncomfortable passing a group of guys, knowing they will try to get my attention. I passed by but no such thing happened. Instead I felt like they
Yesterday I walked through the park. It was a sunny day so there were lots of people. Kids were hanging on the benches,
were actively trying to Intimidate me. Walking past them I felt angry faces towards me in the corner of my eye.
old ladies were walking their dog, tourists were taking pictures, so pretty much business as usual. But then I suddenly noticed something seemed off. People didn’t smile when I smiled at them. A girl my age even looked irritated, and looked scared
I walked on towards my bike. I had some trouble opening the rusty lock. One of the guys had followed me! ‘What do you think you are doing?! Go back to the desert and leave that bike alone!’, I heard him yelling at me. Confused and angered I
when I nodded hello.
turned around. Then all of a sudden I faced a mirror. But it It must have just been in my head I said to myself, but I was starting to get more uncomfortable by the minute. I passed by
wasn’t my reflection. I saw the face of a man. A man with brown hair and dark eyes.
a group of tourists taking a group picture in the grass. One of the girls couldn’t be in the picture, as they needed someone to take the picture of course.
As I always do when I’m in a good
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the other shoes by clicking the button.”
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“This VR-stroll was recorded by Achmed El Alaoui. Try on any of
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venture 29 10
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOSH HILD Yesterday I experienced the social VR-project ‘Walk in my shoes’. I am a sociology student in Amsterdam and this project immediately sparked my interest. Walk in my shoes is a project were you can experience in VR what a day in someone else's shoes is like. You’ll go
through a stroll in a park, were you’ll have lots of remarkable encounters, that different kinds of people have actually went through.
The different views vary
from of a muslim person, to an elderly person, to a gay person. In total you can experience ten different stories, from ten different people. The project was presented at the VR-lab of my university, to inspire students working on social problems, like I’m currently doing. I believe this VR experience should be done by every person in our society. It makes you genuinely have a better understanding what it's like to be in a less privileged position.
We all judge others without even knowing it. Until we walk in someone else’s shoes. I think it’s an example of something we definitely need right now. Society is getting more polarized by the minute. Thanks to social media we all seem to live in strong bubbles. We only hear people that share our opinions, our interest and our dislikes. VR finally gives the opportunity to almost literally walk in someone else’s shoes! Not to only develop more empathy for others, but to really feel what it is like to be someone else. Someone who might not get the same chances as you. Someone who is perhaps looked differently at by society from the day they were born. Without VR this would never be possible.
The racists, the sexists, the people who look down on homeless people, the people who make fun of drag queens, the people who get angried by elderly people. All of these people should do this VR experience, to
should also be done by people like me. Selfproclaimed ‘aware’ people. The ‘woken’, the welldoers. Because no one is a saint. We all judge others without even knowing it. We all think we are doing it right, until we really see it from another perspective. Until we walk in someone else’s shoes.
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truly feel the effects of their abuse. But to be honest, it
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DATE OF PUBLISHING: 11/10/2019 EDITOR IN CHIEF - IRIS VAN SCHIE WRITERS - JULIA VAN DEN MUIJSENBERG, GEERT BRAAM, LISANNE VAN ’T RIET 360° VIDEO - INGRID GODAGER & BRENDAN MCDADE DESIGN (BY CANVA) - INGRID GODAGER & LISANNE VAN ’T RIET FRONT PAGE IMAGE - MARTIN SANCHEZ FONTS: HEADINGS AND PHOTO CAPTIONS: LEAGUE SPARTAN BODY TEXT AND BYLINES: GLACIAL INDIFFERENCE
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