VR Self-Counselling

Scientists have introduced a new technique for self-counselling. Participants were embodied in scanned copies of themselves in immersive virtual reality and explained a personal problem to a virtual representation of Dr Sigmund Freud

They were then transferred into the Freud virtual body, and from that perspective could see and hear their virtual doppelganger explain the problem. Then while in the Freud body they could give a response, for example, offer another way to view the problem, after which they were transferred back to their own virtual body in order to see and hear Freud’s response (of course their own response) delivered in a disguised voice. This transfer back and forth between the two bodies could be repeated many times, thus leading to a conversation between self, and self but embodied as Freud.

We showed in the earlier study that the self-counselling technique produced better outcomes, in terms of improving the mood and happiness of participants with respect to their initial problem, when participants were embodied as the counsellor in the Freud virtual body compared to the counsellor being another duplicate of their own body. Moreover, being embodied as Freud with synchronous visuomotor feedback, corresponding to a strong illusion of body ownership over the Freud body, produced better outcomes compared with asynchronous visuomotor feedback corresponding to low body ownership. Although, being embodied as Freud with synchronous visuomotor feedback produced the best overall outcomes, on the average participants improved their mood and happiness with respect to their personal problem irrespective of the experimental condition: simply talking about their problem was sufficient to lead to some improvement. This phenomenon is considered as one of the common factors in psychotherapy.

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