April 14th From apps to virtual reality: innovation in mental health care
While on the one hand the supply of mental health care is disappearing, on the other hand all kinds of new possibilities and solutions are being added to make care more accessible and efficient. Not only are parts of treatment moving from the physical world to the digital world, but innovative techniques are also being developed that can be used to expand treatment options. Platform change inc highlighted some people who are developing this type of services and thus contributing to innovation in mental health.
From various sectors it is heard that mental health care is not an easy field in which to implement innovations. Many care institutions have been using the same way of working for years, and changes are often difficult, also due to limitations in funding the mental health care system. However, many new technologies are being developed and we see more and more apps appearing that people can also use at home to support and promote their mental health. Guntur Sandino, Tara Donker and Timo Spijkers are all involved in new (digital) treatment methods and said change inc about your projects.
interactive virtual reality
Guntur Sandino’s company makes software and hardware that integrate virtual reality into mental health care. “We want to use virtual reality to make healthcare more efficient and effective. As a result, there are far fewer waiting lists later on and people can re-enter society healthily and more quickly,” he says in a statement. interview from change inc†
“We started treating fear of flying in 2010 and stopped in 2015. Treatment of fear of flying is no longer reimbursed, because it is a simple anxiety disorder. This looks like a fancy problem. At this time, therefore, we are primarily concerned with complex disorders. Such as the treatment of psychosis, social phobia, autism, panic disorders, trauma, addiction, antisocial behavior, mild intellectual disability, personality disorder and depression.
Although this company is far from alone in offering VR for mental health care, its technology sets itself apart from other programs. Sandino: “There are many virtual reality companies that are also active in mental health care, but they mainly have 360-degree videos. […] The disadvantage [daarvan] it’s just the same shot every time. Compare it to going to the same movie at the cinema.” Sandino’s software works differently: “We have an animated ‘exhibit’ where you can adjust everything at any time and thus offer a tailored treatment.”
For example, when a patient experiences some fear when visiting a supermarket, this often does not apply to the supermarket experience they get with the VR goggles. After a first session, they already know what to expect from the virtual reality image. “The strength of our product is that we don’t prescribe anything,” says Sandino. “Every time the patient puts on his glasses and goes to the supermarket, he looks different. And the practitioner can also manipulate the situation. Suppose a patient is afraid of people wearing hoodies, then a psychologist can make sure there are no people walking in the supermarket wearing hoodies at first and charge them later. That’s why we call our product ‘Dynamic Interactive Virtual Reality Cognitive Behavioral Therapy’. After all, the practitioner can adjust the situation at any time.”
VR on your smartphone
GZ psychologist and teacher Tara Donker is also working on new possibilities with virtual reality, but then in app form: “Our goal is to make globally effective, accessible and scalable mental health care available for the price of a cup of coffee at your local coffee shop. Our sustainable solution is a scalable and accessible therapy that people without a therapist can follow through something that everyone already has with them; a smartphone.”
For example, options are already available for fear of heights and fear of flying, and an app is currently being developed to help with fear of spiders. With this app you can see a spider walking on your own hand through your phone camera. Donker: “We have now developed two virtual reality therapies and one augmented reality therapy with the help of Orb Amsterdam. The applications are based on cognitive behavioral therapy. The two virtual reality therapies for fear of heights and fear of flying have been scientifically investigated at the VU University of Amsterdam. Apart from your smartphone, you just need some simple cardboard virtual reality glasses.”
“For the augmented reality app that targets the fear of spiders, you just need your smartphone. We are currently looking for participants to investigate whether this augmented reality app is also scientifically effective. Our next step is to develop sustainable therapies for stress, depression and other anxiety disorders.”
digital health institution
Timo Spijkers works for a Swedish company that focuses entirely on digital mental health care. “We have created a mental health care institution in the form of an app. In the app, customers can choose a psychologist for themselves, without waiting time. We created the app and self-help modules ourselves and employ almost all 400 psychologists.” Your mission? “Make the most effective psychological treatment available to everyone”, according to Spijkers†
“By the time someone comes to see a psychologist for the first time, they have had a disorder for an average of six months. You can imagine that the situation has not improved much in those six months. Often worse. If people have a session earlier, they often need less help. Then they can be helped with four, five or maybe ten sessions, so to speak. That’s why accessibility is so important,” explains Spijkers.
Therapists and clients also have an extra tool at their disposal with, for example, applications to extend the treatment. Spijkers: “For example, with online tools, psychologists can measure clients’ behavior and happiness in many ways and further improve treatments. For example, a psychologist may have a client rate how she feels every day and identify the factors that had a positive or negative impact on this. So you get a kind of diary. A psychologist can use that diary in treatment. This provides tools for the psychologist, but is also useful for the client. Because they get a lot more information about their own health.”
“A psychologist sees a client every week or every two weeks. Meanwhile, the client can work with the advice of the psychologist and the self-help modules. The treatment is also carried out between the sessions of the psychologist. The client will manage her own health. In this way, he reduces the amount of care he has to provide and makes people more self-sufficient and therefore happier.”
About him website for change inc You will find more information and full interviews about the previous initiatives.