Month: March 2015

Distracting patients at the dentist to lower their fear



Nearly one-quarter of all Americans avoid dentists because they’re afraid, according to American Dental Association surveys. There’s fear of pain, fear of needles, fear of drills, fear of blood, fear of gagging, fear of feeling helpless or having personal space violated, fear of being lectured for not brushing or flossing adequately and fear of being admonished for staying away so long…

Minimizing pain, maximizing distractions. 

Dentists are trying to find new ways to calm their patients. Some practices let patients virtually sleep through the procedure. Others focus on minimizing pain as well as the typical sounds and smells of dentistry that can trigger unpleasant memories, while maximizing soothing distractions.

Behavioral psychotherapists can teach ways to overcome anxiety. Some people find that hypnosis helps them relax, and some hypnotherapists can provide sessions by phone before dental visits.

Some dentists also boast spa-like comforts, such as massaging chairs, warm neck rolls, paraffin wax treatments for hands and reflexology, the traditional Chinese foot massage.

Taking a cue from pediatric practices, some dentists offer an array of entertainment options to keep patients’ minds off the drilling and filling. Various psychological techniques, including distraction by virtual reality environments and the playing of video games, are now employed to treat pain. In virtual reality environments, an image is provided for the patient in a realistic, immersive manner devoid of distractions. This technology allows users to interact at many levels with the virtual environment, using many of their senses, and encourages them to become immersed in the virtual world they are experiencing. When immersion is high, much of the user’s attention is focused on the virtual environment, leaving little attention left to focus on other things, such as pain. In this way virtual reality provides an effective medium for reproducing and/or enhancing the distractive qualities of guided imagery for the majority of the population who cannot visualize successfully.

What can patients do themselves to alleviate their anxiety? 

Bring your own distractions—a riveting book, a music player full of transporting tunes or favorite movies if your dentist is equipped to play them.

Tell the dentist and the staff about your fears. And shop around until you find a practice that is empathetic.

In the meantime, take very good care of your teeth and gums. The healthier they are, the more pleasant every dental visit will be.

To thus who want to go farther on the subject, we published a paper called Virtual reality and interactive simulation for pain distraction in the Cyber Therapy issue of 2010

This article is based on Melinda Beck’s, More dentists talking pains to win back fearful patients.


Checking email less frequently reduces stress


Checking email less frequently reduces stress, according to psychologists at the University of British Columbia.

They instructed half of the study’s 124 adults, including students, financial analysts and medical professionals, to limit checking their email to three times daily for a week, while telling the other half to check email as often as they did before the study. Then the researchers reversed the instructions for the two groups during a subsequent week. The researchers found thatduring the limited email use week, participants experienced significantly lower daily stress than during the unlimited email use week. Lower stress, in turn, predicted higher well-being on a diverse range of well-being outcomes. These findings highlight the benefits of checking email less frequently for reducing psychological stress.

You can read the full research on Computer in Human Behavior book.

Teens who have been prescribed anti-anxiety medications may be more likely to abuse those drugs

stressed teen

Teens who have been prescribed anti-anxiety or sleep medications may be 12 times more likely to abuse those drugs than teens who have never received a prescription, finds a researchconducted at the University of Michigan.

Looking at data over three years from more than 2,700 high school and middle school students, researchers found that almost 9 percent of the students had been prescribed a potentially addictive benzodiazepine for treating anxiety or sleep problems at some time in their lives.

Just over 3 percent of students had a current prescription during the study, and those students were 10 times more likely than students who never had a prescription to obtain anti-anxiety or sleep medications for nonmedical reasons, such as experimenting or getting high.

Students who were prescribed anti-anxiety medications before the three-year study but no longer had a prescription were 12 times more likely to use someone else’s anti-anxiety medication than students who had never received a prescription.

Researchers also found that white students were twice as likely as black students to use the medications without a prescription.

In VRMI, we use an alternative to method to help people to clam down their anxiety, find out more here.





Through various techniques, such as relaxation, visualization, biofeedback and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT),  stress management therapy can help to overcome the negative effects of stress. The INTERSTRESS project had a looked more closely on CBT protocols for treatment and prevention of psychological stress and burnout. This 3-year research study funded under the FP7 program by DG-CONNECT, European Commission, was completed in February 2014, and deliver us here its findings.



In the standard CBT protocol for stress management, imagination and/or exposure evoke emotions, and the meaning of the associated feelings can be changed through reflection and relaxation. The INTERSTRESS project went a step beyond:  allowing participants (school teachers and nurses) to control experiences that evoke emotions, resulting in meaningful new feelings, which can then be considered and ultimately changed through reflection and relaxation.  Allowing the participants to be actively involved, with a measure of control, helped to improve self-confidence and self-efficacy.

Although traditional CBT focuses directly on modifying dysfunctional thoughts through a rational and deliberate process, INTERSTRESS focused on modification through a more contextualized, experiential process. In the INTERSTRESS training, individuals were actively involved in the learning process, experiencing stressful situations reproduced in virtual environments and reflecting on the stress level in their daily life with the help of advanced technology, Virtual Reality, Smartphones and biofeedback sensors.



From a clinical point of view, the INTERSTRESS solution offers the following advantages to existing traditional CBT protocols for stress management:

  1. integrated and quantitative assessment of the user’s stress level using biosensors and behavioral analysis: the level of stress is continuously assessed in the virtual world by recording the participant’s behavioral and emotional status;
  2. provision of motivating feedback to improve self-awareness, compliance and long-term outcomes. (Participants receive feedback of their emotional and physical state to improve their appraisal and coping skills in an engaging and motivating fashion.)



Virtual Reality Medical Institute, VRMI, was the Dissemination Exploitation Workpackage Leader for the INTERSTRESS Project as well as a Clinical Partner and leader of the Marketing Trials.  We are now proud to announce that we are the first provider of the INTERSTRESS solution in a private practice setting, proving that positive research achieved can be successfully translated into real world settings, helping individuals achieve relief long after the project is complete.

We offer these services in Belgium, California and China.  For more information on locations please visit our contact page at: or email us at research @


For more information on the research and the treatment, a Pdf is available here.

Posttraumatic stress disorder



Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may develop when a person goes through one or more traumatic events such as sexual assault, serious injury, narrowly escaping death, domestic violence or watching a fellow soldier die on the battlefield. People with PTSD typically suffer from disturbing recurring flashbacks, hyperarousal, bad dreams, frightening thoughts, emotional numbness and strong feelings of depression, guilt and worry.



Exposure therapy, a Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) technique, is the most widely employed tool to help victims manage PTSD symptoms. By helping patients to confront—rather than avoid—the memory of the traumatic event, exposure therapy techniques support the ability to overcome anxieties and fears. Using other relaxation techniques, victims slowly gain control over responses to traumatic events and learn to cope in a much better way. Exposure therapy has been found to be very effective in treating PTSD, and has a high success rate in treating patients with specific phobias.

Virtual reality, with its advanced visual immersion devices, specially programmed computers, and three-dimensional artificially created virtual environments, takes exposure therapy to a whole new level—allowing the patient to confront a traumatic experience in a safe and controlled manner.



The most extensive research regarding the applications for VR-based therapy for treating posttraumatic stress disorder was funded by the Office of Naval Research, starting in 2005. This initiative was part of a program to develop new technologies to assist combat veterans of Iraq/Afghanistan in managing PTSD symptoms.

Using new software, hardware, simulations, physiologic monitoring (biofeedback), skills training and therapeutic methods based on Virtual Reality, VRMC (Virtual Reality Medical Institute’s California-based affiliate), designed,  developed, tested and clinically validated VR and biofeedback in a randomized clinical trial carried out at Balboa Naval Hospital and Camp Pendleton Marine Base in Southern California.  The development began after holding focus groups with returning military men and women, to bring in the content and cues that were most important to them as the end users.

The advantage of this VR-based Graded Exposure Therapy (VR-GET) is that it helps patients who find it difficult to identify or talk about a traumatic event—which impacts the ability to learn the required skills to cope with a number of anxiety-inducing situations.

In this setting, the combat veteran relives the traumatic episode in a simulation that captures the essential elements of the event—all in a safe and controlled manner—while trying to recognize and manage any excessive autonomic arousal and cognitive reactivity.




VRMC’s  VR system and protocols are now in use in active duty and veteran’s facilities throughout the U.S. as well as in Poland and Croatia, to serve coalition troops.  It is now with great pride that we announce that Virtual Reality Medical Institute, VRMI, will be the first to offer this treatment in Western Europe.  For more information, or to schedule a consultation session, please email us at research @




Press release