Virtual Reality-Based Group Therapy Benefits Cancer Patients

January 13, 2020

A new study highlights the effects of virtual reality on group therapy for young oncology patients.

Yale School of Medicine in conjunction with Foretell Reality, a subsidiary company of The Glimpse Group, Inc., is actively studying the effects of virtual reality (VR) on group therapy for cancer patients.

The study, led by Yale School of Medicine’s Asher Marks, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics (hematology/oncology) and director of pediatric neuro-oncology, is seeking an effective and convenient solution for adolescent cancer patients to participate in group therapy without the hassle of traveling to and from the hospital after their discharge or have infection risk or are uncomfortable in a public setting.

Participants of the study range from aged 13 to 30 years and they all share oncology diagnosis, either in treatment or with treatment received in less than a year of participation. The study is primarily focused on young adults, who are given measurements to gauge levels of anxiety, depression, and resilience to see how VR group sessions compare to more conventual methods of group therapy. 

Related: CVS Health Launches New Approach To Oncology Management

Early indicators of the study have shown that VR-based group therapy sessions may reduce levels of anxiety and depression for cancer patients who are able to chat in VR with others and discuss their shared medical conditions in an interactive and collaborative setting.

“A major factor in this study is the convenience for patients to enter a VR-based chat room, something that is especially useful for people with rare diseases or those who live in rural areas” says Marks in a press release. “The VR technology offered . . . allows users to jointly partake as avatars in a shared experience which cannot be replicated over a conference call or video chat. Additionally, patients in the study are presented the option to remain anonymous during the VR group session, giving them a unique opportunity to communicate with others in a way they may otherwise not be comfortable with.”

Lyron Bentovim, president and CEO of The Glimpse Group says in the press release: "VR support groups have the potential to enhance patient care in a way that is not possible with current distance-based communication tools.”