Frequently Asked Questions
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1. What are phobias?
A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder. Phobias can be divided into three categories: social phobia, agoraphobia and specific phobia. Social phobia is a fear of being judged in social or performance situations. Agoraphobia is a fear of public places and open spaces. Specific phobia is a fear of a specific object or situation, such as airplanes, spiders or heights. Click here to learn more about phobias and anxiety disorders.
2. How do I begin the treatment process?
You will sit down with the therapist and talk about any questions that may be present. Together both of you will discuss what will be done as part of the program. You will also discuss what you would like to accomplish through treatment. A full history and clinical assessment will also be provided. You will then learn relaxation techniques and diaphragmatic breathing skills as a means to ease fear and stress levels.
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3a. What licensing do the therapists have?
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3b. What training and experience do the therapists have in this area?
Please visit our staff page to get to know the therapists at the clinic near you.
4. What are the clinical procedures at the VRMI?
Non-invasive sensors used to measure your heart rate, breathing rate, sweat gland activity and skin temperature. The therapist will then explain visual feedback of physiology to you. You will learn to control your breathing rate and heart rate, and cognitive coping techniques will be taught before placing you into the VR world. Please visit our About Us page for more information.
5. What will happen during therapy?
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6. How many sessions are required?
The intake session is 60 to 90 minutes long and consists of a diagnostic interview and lessons on anxiety management. Every regular session thereafter is 45-50 minutes consisting of either continued psychotherapy or VR exposure. On average, patients complete treatment by scheduling once a week for 10-12 weeks. If you are coming from out of the area, one to two sessions each day, Monday through Friday, can be scheduled.
The number of sessions required, however, will vary depending on the specific condition being addressed. All sessions, after the initial session, are 50 minutes each. Normally, treatment progresses once per week. On average, if you are seeking treatment for a Specific Phobia, 8-10 sessions are required. The average number of sessions for Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia is 12-15 and for PTSD 15-20 sessions. This average will vary by individual based on the severity of your disorder and your active participation in treatment and assigned “homework” tasks.
7. How can I be an active participant in my own recovery?
There are many ways to be an active participant in your own treatment. Learning and practicing the anxiety management techniques is key. Reading and completing workbook exercises between sessions will also help your progress. In addition, you can explore the feared environment in real life in one of its less threatening modes in between VR exposure sessions (ie. visiting the airport if you have a fear of flying).
8. How much does treatment cost?
Treatments are currently available only in California – La Jolla, San Diego, and Coronado.
Session 1: Intake and Clinical History: 300 USD
Session 2: Skills Training: 200 USD
As of Session 3: Virtual Reality Sessions @ 200 USD per session
9. What is your rate of success?
Controlled clinical studies of virtual reality treatment as well as our clinical services performed over the past 20 years for specific phobias, panic disorder, and agoraphobia reveal a success rate of approximately 92%. For PTSD due to Motor Vehicle Accidents, our success rate is 88%. For PTSD due to trauma during conflicts, our success rate is 80% (this is in contrast to most other treatment success rates of 40% with significant dropouts).
10. Other than anxiety disorders, what conditions do you treat at the clinics?
Psychologists and psychiatrists are available to treat chronic pain, stress-related disorders such as migraine and tension headache, chronic jaw pain, Temporomandibular Joint Disorder and irritable bowel syndrome, and to teach coping skills and treat stress and anxiety due to medical conditions. In addition, general stress management is taught. Dr. Wiederhold is Board Certified in Biofeedback and Neurofeedback in addition to her doctorate in Clinical Health Psychology and licensure as a Clinical Psychologist in California and Belgium. She oversees all psychology operations at the clinic.
11. What if you don’t have a virtual environment for my phobia?
The Virtual Reality Medical Institute employs psychologists and psychiatrists that are able to treat clients with traditional Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This typically involves teaching stress and anxiety management techniques that can be used in any anxiety-inducing situation, and then exposing you to pictures and video and auditory stimuli of the phobic object. Some disorders will then involve exposure to the actual feared object in real life, when you are ready for this step.
12. What if there is not a clinic near me?
Condensed treatment, one session per day, Monday-Friday, is available for those traveling from out-of-town. For a specific phobia, this would require a 2-week committment from the client. Treatments are available in California only – La Jolla and Sorrento Valley locations.
13. Do you treat children?
The youngest client treated has been six years old and the most senior has been 83. There are therapists available to treat individuals of all ages.
14. Are you able to prescribe medication to me if I need it?
Our clinicians do not prescribe medication to you. However, VRMI has close ties to psychiatrists and internal medicine specialists in the area and can refer you to those professionals should you wish. We also work closely with other disciplines, such as Acupuncture and Nutritionists to provide an integrative treatment approach for our patients.