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2017 was a tough year for Kevin. He experienced a traumatic event. Despite the severity of his symptoms, he ended up on a waiting list for some time. When there was finally room for him, he ended up at a practice where he underwent regular EMDR therapy for a while. In the summer of 2018, they decided to participate in a pilot of EMDR in VR. Kevin's therapist suggested continuing the treatment in virtual reality and he immediately knew he wanted to try that. A decision he is very happy with to this day.
We spoke to Kevin about his experiences.
I was mainly curious. I like gadgets, so I definitely wanted to experience this. Besides, I had already noticed some cautious first effects of the regular EMDR sessions, so I was curious to see what else would be possible with this method.
I'm quite easily distracted, so the idea of being completely closed off by the glasses and being in my own world for a while seemed a nice prospect.
Compared to regular EMDR, it was pretty intense. Heavy, but nice I would say. Overwhelming in a good way. The glasses and the way in which, in no time at all, you find yourself in the luxurious VR environment, is very special to experience. You really feel like you're there instead of in your therapist's office. It is so detailed and peaceful. No therapist scratching his nose, or shadows on the wall of cars driving by, but really full focus. I knew that technology can do a lot, but this was immediately of a different order. I knew immediately: this therapy is going to mean a lot to me.
No, you quickly get used to it. You don't even notice that you're wearing the glasses anymore and you just accept the new (virtual) reality.
He was in the same room. The set-up of the treatment was not much different than usual. I first came in and together we looked at where I was at that moment and which 'picture' I would use for the session. Then I put on the glasses and he continued with his normal activities. After the VR session we talked and I shared my experiences.
I noticed very large effects on myself right away; much larger than after the traditional EMDR treatments. Then I also noticed something, but those were really small steps. Now I walked the streets with more confidence after each treatment and I suffered less and less from nightmares and re-experiences.
Besides the lack of distractions and the enormous effects that I immediately saw, I also liked being more in control. To be able to undergo the therapy quietly and in my own space and time.
Yes, every day. I live my life again. I can work again and enjoy a winter sports holiday, for example. But I still go to my virtual therapist! Not weekly as before, but still once every two to four weeks. It helps me a lot with the nightmares I still have.
Do you really need to ask me that question, haha? Yes, definitely! It is so simple and effective. Moreover, it is easy to use; for every therapist and client, regardless of age and skill with techniques. This should be offered in every practice tomorrow. I think it is the solution to the waiting time problem. There are so many people with traumas and fears. We could help all of them quickly and prevent their complaints from getting worse!