Virtual Reality Therapy for Youth Mental Health

Designing therapeutic applications for virtual reality to improve mental health

New commercial Virtual Realty (VR) hardware platforms – Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR and HTC Vive – offer excellent VR experiences at an affordable price. These technologies are increasing access and use of VR across the community and bring VR within the reach of clinics and young people and will be the focus of research in years to come.

There is a growing interest within clinical psychology in using virtual reality technologies within therapy programs. One area is whether young people suffering a broader set of conditions including psychosis and depression might benefit from VR.

Self-compassion has been shown to reduce psychopathology and increase wellbeing and resilience, but creating experience of self-compassion is difficult. We believe that VR can provide an engaging platform to illustrate self-compassion.

This project seeks to examine whether commercial VR technologies are effective in youth mental health. This project will design a VR app via a participatory design process that embodies the “self-compassion” approach to treatment, and pilot-test it with Orygen. The primary advantage offered by VR is the ability to offer patients compelling, perceptually realistic scenarios that are therapeutically salient. Secondary advantages include therapist control over the environment and the appeal of game-like technologies to young people.

Research Team


Seed Funding 2016

Virtual reality as a healthcare tool, SA Mathieson, Computer Weekly, June 2017.

Virtual reality finds a new use in conquering depression, Paul Biegler, Australian Financial Review, 7 April 2017.

How virtual reality is being used to deliver mental health care, Michael Collett, ABC News, 12 October 2016.

Turns out Pokemon GO is unexpectedly great for mental health, Triple J Hack, 12 July 2016