From the Editor
At the end of medical school, I spent some time working with an attending psychiatrist who was keen on behavioural interventions. He asked me to see a patient with acrophobia, a fear of heights, and told me to take the patient for an elevator ride for a “real-world experience.” For the record, the patient declined. (Having had no background in behavioural interventions, I’m not sure who was more anxious about that possible elevator ride, the patient or me.)
For people with phobias, exposure can be helpful. And so, therapists have taken their patients on plane trips and to visit tall buildings, and encouraged them to sign up for public speaking classes. As technology advances, we can ask: could virtual reality, or VR, work?
In the first selection, we consider a new paper from JAMA Psychiatry. Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam’s Tara Donker and her co-authors use VR for acrophobia. They choose a very basic intervention – an app and cardboard google glasses. They find: “A low-cost fully self-guided app-based virtual reality cognitive behavioral therapy with rudimentary virtual reality goggles can produce large acrophobia symptom reductions.”
The future of psychiatry? Maybe – and certainly recyclable
In the second selection, we look at a new editorial from The Lancet Psychiatry. While the authors are keen on digital psychiatry – the sort of work that Donker and her team do – they also warn about potential problems.