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Add An Event

Clinical Brown Bag Series

Tuesday, September 19, 2017,
  • Location: Wilson Hall • 111 21St Ave S • Nashville, TN 37240
  • Room: 316

Noah Robinson

Department of Psychology

Vanderbilt University


Treating Addiction with Virtual Reality: Affective Triggers and Relapse Prevention” 

 Drug overdose deaths are the leading cause of injury death in the United States, surpassing both motor vehicle and firearm deaths (National Drug Threat Assessment Summary, 2015). Substance abuse disorders often develop on top of strong emotional processes and negative experiences - intoxication becomes a way to cope with negative affect. In order to prevent relapse, interventions must be immediately accessible to break maladaptive cycles of self-regulation. Virtual reality may be an optimal medium to deliver such interventions. Illustrative case examples from an exploratory VR clinical intervention are reported from a residential addiction treatment facility (Journey Pure). Vignettes are described from patients with opioid use disorder, alcohol use disorder, sexual trauma, PTSD, anxiety, and panic disorder. Therapy was delivered through an Internet-connected social environment called VRchat. Patients received cognitive behavioral therapy, explored virtual worlds, socialized in guided interactions, and experienced environments to trigger cravings. Self-reported experiences from both detox and residential treatment suggest that VR may reduce cravings, regulate negative affect, and impact mood for a period of hours or days. It appears that VR can induce adaptive affects to help facilitate therapeutic change. The data from these patients will provide a foundation to develop testable hypotheses and create a novel VR intervention to treat addiction.