Therapy in VR
UX/ UI Designer
What if we can meet therapists in VR so we don’t need to have a long journey to their office?
There are many good therapists, but they are usually hard to find. The field of counseling and psychotherapy is filled with many different types of professionals, specializing in different areas, with a wide range of quality and skill. It can be challenging to find a person who specializes in a specific area of concern.
One of the primary reasons many people have difficulty finding the right therapist is due to a lack of specialization. Many of them are only focus on anxiety and depression.
According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, over 40% of participants say they ‘very frequently’ treat anxiety and around 5% for addictions, and under 5% for obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Finding the right specialist is very important and it allows for better-targeted treatments but could be very difficult to find a specialist in one’s local community.
Meeting therapists in Virtual Reality is an effective way to access specialized treatment. Using VR treatment, you can feel like you are sitting in the office and having real conversation in your own space.
Aims and Goal
My goal is for people who have mental problems, I hope that they can see their therapist in the customizable virtual space from their place where they feel comfortable.
Anyone who has a Virtual Reality headset can meet their therapist at the virtual space anytime anywhere. Also through this app, they are able to change their avatar, space, mood, or music depends on their feelings and moods so that they can feel more relaxed and comfortable.
Especially, using avatars, users do not need to reveal themselves and do need to feel insecure when they meet their therapist.
Before diving into my project, I researched other mental health VR applications and learned how they currently help people who have mental problems.
What I found here as they are usually focused on simulation which provides the opportunity for mental health professionals to not only reproduce real-life scenarios but also to adapt and control these environments to suit patients' individual needs. They are very helpful for the patients to get used to the specific situation, but I realized that they are currently only focused on giving them space where they need to adapt, no counseling options.
In order to understand users and the concerns that they have, I interview people who have a mental disease. I use an empathy map and persona to organize their thoughts and pain points.
Through the user research, I found user's needs and see the potential of this project. The person I interviewed, she had a car accident last year and she goes to see a therapist frequently, but she doesn't like her therapist's office because not very comfortable. Also, she feels insecure when she talks with her therapist but she even doesn't know why.
After going through other VR therapy applications, I found they offer the situations they find anxiety-provoking because it’s easier to repeatedly try things out that are too scary or perhaps too embarrassing to try in the real world.
My solution is providing virtual space for people who need therapy so that people can see their specialized therapist from their own place. In addition, the virtual office can be replaced by users so they can change scale of it, color, atmosphere, lights, music, and whatever they want, they are able to adjust the virtual space depending on their moods.
Another solution is using an avatar. Using an avatar can be very beneficial for users. Especially for who don’t want to show themselves, they can be more confident to show their thoughts and moods.
Based on my solution, I illustrate a user story to help people to understand how it works.
1. Customizable Avatar
By using an avatar, users can be more confident and also they do not need to hesitate to talk something private to a therapist. based on research, people who have a mental disease, are afraid of people; and yet therapy requires them to open up and share innermost feelings with a complete strange, but it's not easy for them. However, if they use avatars in virtual space, they can be more confident and comfortable when they meet a therapist.
2. Customizable Office
Entering an uncomfortable space makes some people may have trouble opening up. In this VR app, Office, furniture, wall color, lights, even music, users can customize everything in the office, so they can feel more comfortable and also therapist can see their moods or thoughts through their space.
3. Recording Available
One of the important things when people talking with a therapist, the whole session is very important, even the way they talk, gesture, draw, everything they do unconsciously.
What I heard from specialists is drawing therapy is a great method to read and understand the patient's feelings and thoughts, but it's hard to note everything and they hope they record sometimes just in case they miss something important.
By recording option, the therapist able to rewind not only the drawing session but the whole meeting for later.
UI Designs (Rec, Color Picker, Avatar, and Music)
Through this project, I tried to understand user's experiences and think about how to solve the problem that they have and I think it a very good place to start. I hope it can improve user retention and actually helping people live better lives. Especially, that pandemic situation, this virtual application can be very useful and practical.