Chicago Behavior Center Utilizes Innovative Virtual Reality to Treat Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Anxiety Disorders

CHICAGO, Oct. 06, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Compass now offers Virtual Reality Care in its Adult Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Complex Anxiety Programs across in-person locations and through Compass Virtual. Through virtual reality care, it can further support and elevate Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy (ERP) by placing the individual in specific environments that challenge their anxiety. 

In practice, ERP involves purposefully and repeatedly encountering fears, such as thoughts, situations, and physical sensations, without the use of anxiety-reducing tactics. Virtual Reality Care can be used as a gradual stepping stone to real-life exposures and allows for exposure to situations that are not easily accessible, for example taking a flight, being on the ledge of a high building, driving on a highway while raining or at night, and more.

Individuals enrolled in Compass’s OCD and Complex Anxiety Programs for adults ages 18 and over are paired with a trained and licensed exposure therapist who is an expert on evidence-based treatment modalities and can integrate skills and strategies into exposure work using Virtual Reality Care. Program participants can also access Virtual Reality Care from home by using a designated headset or their cell phones. Virtual Reality Care is meant to be a creative way for individuals to enhance treatment effectiveness for certain types of anxiety disorders and OCD while participating in Compass’s Partial Hospitalization (PHP) and Intensive Outpatient (IOP) program curriculum.

“The goal of the OCD and Complex Anxiety programs across Compass is to craft exposures that are challenging for the patient, that match real-life experiences, and that are meaningful experiences for the patients. Virtual reality exposures allow patients to experience feared situations therapists couldn’t simulate without VR programs, such as speaking in front of large crowds or driving on a snowy highway. This allows patients to have more ‘real’ fear experiences during exposure, increasing their ability to learn more about their fear and how they relate to their fear,” said Joe Serio, LCPS, Chief Clinical Officer, Compass Health Center. “Ultimately, this allows patients to get back to the things in life they value but have sacrificed in order to avoid their feared situations. Simply put, this lets patients get better faster. We’re excited about this addition to our treatment repertoire.”

While most other OCD and anxiety programs focus on habituation (the process of anxiety naturally reducing over time due to repeated exposure to a stressor), Compass’s program focuses on inhibitory learning (the process of generating and integrating new information associated with a given stressor). This means that individuals at Compass are learning new information that competes with their original fears and makes stressors more ambiguous when confronted in the future. Often, this results in a reduction in distress. 

Where a typical exposure session would focus on tracking the level of distress with the goal of reducing it over time, Compass takes the time to discuss the context around the stressor and helps build reflections or takeaways that help the patient change their relationship with the stressor going forward. This process increases a patient’s ability to more effectively tolerate anxiety and stress so that functioning and ability to go about their daily lives is not impeded. This creates longer-lasting, more generalizable beliefs that allow individuals to face their fears with more willingness and confidence and to more fully engage in and enjoy activities and situations that they would have otherwise avoided and missed.

Learn more about Compass’s OCD and Complex Anxiety Program here.

Amelia Virtual Care Sample Videos:

Contact Information:
Britt Teasdale
Associate Director, Brand Management, Compass Health Center
Phone 216-926-0550

Related Images

Image 1: Virtual Reality for mental health

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