Q: How successful is this treatment?
A: Virtual Reality has been shown to be effective and is an integral part of the psychiatry program at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical College.
Q: How long are sessions?
A: Sessions vary in length from 45 to 75 minutes.
Q: How many sessions are there?
A: Typically 8-12. For fear of flying, an average of eight sessions suffices to allow individuals to manage any symptoms of anxiety during flying.
Q: What percentage of people are cured?
A: Studies show that the majority of patients benefit from treatment.
Q: Where are you located?
A: We have offices at Payne Whitney Manhattan located at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center and at Payne Whitney Westchester in White Plains.
Q: How much experience do you have with this treatment?
A: We have been using virtual reality in the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder and phobias for a significant period of time. We have published in the area of virtual reality research and are currently funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and National Institute of Health (NIH) to further develop our virtual reality programs.
Furthermore, exposure therapy has been an integral part of our treatment program since its inception. Virtual reality can best be understood as an enhancement to a well-proven therapeutic method. In brief, exposure therapy consists of "exposing" the patient to that which they fear and/or are anxious about. This can include "imaginal" exposure to traumatic memories where the patient recalls the traumatic event in memory, and "in vivo" exposure, where the patient is coached to safely approach feared situations in the world, such as coaching a burn patient to approach cooking at the stove. Virtual Reality technology allows us to expose people to feared situations (such as an airplane trip) within the convenience of the therapist's office.
Q: Is this treatment covered by insurance?
A: Our providers are Medicare participants, but we do not accept other insurances. While these services may be covered by insurance companies, we expect payment in full at time of service. Contact your insurer for specific information about reimbursement for these services.
Q: What is a typical treatment session like?
A: Following an initial evaluation, patients are first taught basic relaxation techniques. Subsequent sessions then consist of confronting the feared situation, i.e., an airplane, elevator, public speaking situation, etc., through use of the virtual reality equipment.
For fear of flying, a Virtual Airplane places the patient in the window seat of the passenger cabin of a commercial airplane. With a few simple keystrokes, the therapist can expose the patient to the different aspects of a complete flying experience such as sitting in the plane with the engines on or off, taxiing on the runway, takeoff, flying in either smooth or turbulent weather, and landing. The sights and sounds mimic those found in actual flight. Patients experience anxiety as if they were actually on a real plane.
The patient's experience is augmented with the use of sensory feedback provided by a chair with a specially designed speaker underneath. Thus, one can feel the turbulence outside and other mechanical bumps associated with flying.
Q: Could virtual reality make my condition worse?
A: The treatment technique used is gradual exposure, which means that the patient is gradually exposed to the feared stimulus at a rate they can tolerate. All of the therapists utilizing the virtual reality equipment are specially trained to devise individualized exposure treatment plans with each patient.
Q: Do you treat children?
A: We treat children over the age of 12. We would be happy to make a referral for those under the age of 12.
Q: Are medications part of the treatment?
A: If, following a comprehensive evaluation, you and your therapist decide medication is indicated, you will be referred to a licensed medical doctor as part of your treatment.