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article imageVirtual reality set to be the next big thing for art therapy

By Tim Sandle     Feb 11, 2020 in Health
Virtual reality is becoming an established tool in medicine. To determine if it could be applied to a new area, psychologists have been examining its potential in art therapy and the results are encouraging for some, but not all, patients.
Virtual reality has made strides in area like physical rehabilitation and with helping people to overcome particular phobias. A new study from Drexel University set to to determine whether virtual reality can be used as an expressive tool in art therapy, and if this delivers benefits for patients and assists psychologists.
What is art therapy?
Art therapy is an established form of expressive therapy, where art materials, like paints, chalk and pens, as used to support psychotherapeutic techniques. The aim is to assist with understanding of the psychological aspects of the creative process. Qualified art therapists can "decode" nonverbal messages, symbols, and metaphors revealed through different art forms, and can analyse the feelings and behavior of the person who produced the art, and this can sometimes help to resolve deeper psychological issues.
VR and art therapy
To test out the potential application of virtual reality to assist with art therapy, the researchers ran sessions using HTC VIVE VR headsets together with a Leap Motion controller. The software operated was Tilt Brush by Google. Patients used the software to create three dimensional images.
Commenting on the study, lead researcher Professor Girija Kaimal says: "Most participants reported feeling energized and elated by the experience of being in an imaginal space that was unlike anything that existed in the material world."
However, the researcher goes on to say that the use of virtual reality was not for everyone. Some patients found the experience disorientating and others missed the sense of physical interaction. This places virtual reality as a potential tool to assist art therapy, but not as a replacement for the interactivity that patients enjoy when using paints and other art media.
The research is published in the journal Art Therapy, where the peer reviewed study is titled "Virtual Reality in Art Therapy: A Pilot Qualitative Study of the Novel Medium and Implications for Practice."
More about Virtual reality, art therapy, Psychology
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