In order to complement current treatments for mental health disorders and effectively combat these wider economical and societal issues, a refreshed approach to mental health treatment is required. While VR therapy has been used in the past to treat certain mental health conditions, specifically phobias, it has always required a therapist with the appropriate skills and knowledge to guide the patient through the treatment. With access to therapists limited, there have been severe delays in treatment.

In 2018, led by Professor Daniel Freeman, Chief Clinical Officer of Oxford VR and Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Oxford, Oxford VR pioneered and tested an automated VR treatment that delivers psychological therapy via a computer-generated virtual coach or avatar. The results of the research, which focused its attentions on fear of heights, were published in the Lancet Psychiatry publication, receiving global acclaim. The research proved Oxford VR’s therapy has the potential to transform mental health for millions by combining state-of-the-art immersive, readily available consumer technology with world-class, clinically validated science from the University of Oxford. This leaves Oxford VR well-placed going forward to develop treatments that are faster and significantly cheaper for health services to deploy, and – crucially – engaging and entertaining for users.

While the focus in 2018 has been on issues such as fear of heights, psychosis and social anxiety, Oxford VR is now developing automated VR treatments for significant disorders such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, addiction and delusions. The advent of consumer VR equipment means that automated treatment can potentially be made available to millions, despite a lack of skilled mental health clinicians. While rigorous testing will be vital going forward, Oxford VR has broken new ground in 2018 by proving the effective use of automated VR therapy to treat mental health disorders. VR treatments for mental health disorders will be faster and significantly cheaper to deploy, and will excellently complement existing traditional clinical therapies.