Psious Make Virtual Reality Accessible To Mental Health Professionals

While occasional anxiety is a normal part of life, anxiety disorders involve more than temporary worry or fear. For people living with anxiety disorders the anxiety does not go away and can even get worse over time, interfering with daily activities such as job performance, school and relationships. There are a variety of anxiety disorders, including specific phobias, panic disorder, social anxiety, and generalized anxiety disorder, and collectively they are among the most common mental disorders.
 
With proper treatment many with anxiety disorders can lead normal, fulfilling lives. Certain kinds of cognitive and behavioral therapy have been found to be especially helpful for anxiety. It can help change the thinking patterns that support the fear and change how we react to anxiety-provoking situations. However, the therapy needs to be directed at specific anxieties and tailored to the individual’s needs in order to be effective.
 
The Barcelona-based startup Psious is developing a Virtual Reality platform to be used in exposure therapy.  Studies have found that Virtual Reality is more effective at treating some phobias than traditional exposure methods, and Psious is dedicated to make it accessible to mental health professionals. Designed by psychologists, the system provide the benefits of Virtual Reality quick and easy through your own smartphone and 3D goggles, with no need for costly or complex equipment investments.
 
The company offers several simulations of different situations to gradually expose patients to the source of their anxiety. The simulations include situations for people with severe anxiety related to flying, needles, heights, speaking in public, driving and different animals. It also include therapies for claustrophobia, agoraphobia, and generalized anxiety. In addition they have developed a platform allowing the therapist to increase or decrease exposure, giving them total control of exposure parameters, making treatments adaptable to each patient. Included is a set of wearables that help monitor the patient’s physiological variables to better assess their anxiety level.
 
Virtual Reality is also being explored in other areas of clinical healthcare, including pain management, brain damage assessment and rehabilitation, social cognition training in autism, stroke rehabilitation, Alzheimer’s, ADHD management, as well as in diagnostics. It has even been used for over 20 years to treat soldiers with PTSD. However, because equipment has been so expensive, costing tens of thousands of dollars, it has been difficult to translate into clinical practice and only been available to a small percentage of people. Psious change this by providing the hardware for as little as $300, which could potentially improve the lives of millions living with anxiety disorders. However, the simulations follow a subscription-based business model, available from $39/month up to $1299/year, depending on number of sessions included.
 
Then the million dollar question is, how much more effective is Virtual Reality than traditional methods? From a patient perspective, it is preferred to traditional methods, reduces dropout rates, and give more personalized treatments. However, what will it cost to change the behavior of therapists? Are they willing to spend money on a complementary tool to improve their therapies and increase patient satisfaction? Or will they feel threatened by it and ignore it?

Psious’ investors include DreamIt Ventures, Caixa Capital Risc and Rothenberg Ventures. They have several mental health professionals using the tool worldwide, and are conducting pilots with some of the most important medical institutions, including The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Stanford University, University of Chicago and Hospital Clinic Barcelona.