Virtual Reality (VR) is an artificial environment created with software and presented to the user in such a way that the user suspends disbelief and accepts it as a real environment. These environments can be computer-generated (CGI) or with real people and places, filmed in 360 degrees. The important thing is that you feel like you are living that experience as if you were there, thus the expression “immersive experience.”

Today, technology allows you to access VR with your smartphone using a cardboard or plastic headset, standalone devices such as Oculus Go and Oculus Quest, and other devices that need to be connected to your computer. The majority of the content you will find is focused on entertainment (games), tourism, and education.

In psychology, VR has been used for more than 20 years and it works for a variety of situations: phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), addictions, anxiety, and even psychotic disorders. It is effective because it lets the user be transported to a completely different scenario, simulating any situation that can happen in real life. Traditionally VR therapy has been done in a doctor’s office, under direct supervision. Newer therapies, like MindCotine’s smoking cessation solution, have been proven effective for at-home use by individuals, especially combined with mindfulness training, coaching, or peer support.

One of the most important elements of VR is the concept of presence, which means the more you feel like you are yourself while you are inside of the virtual world, the more likely you are to believe it. In fact, our brains aren’t very good at distinguishing between reality and illusion (as happens in our dreams), so when the VR environment is well made, it can feel very much like real life.

For nicotine dependence, VR is a magnificent tool to help people quit smoking. It can effectively reproduce situations that trigger you to smoke. This helps you prepare yourself at home, both mentally and emotionally, for when you are faced with real-life triggers, like being out with friends drinking, having your morning coffee, or experiencing a very stressful moment at work. With VR you can learn how to identify those big triggers, and most importantly, feel how the craving appears in your body. VR environments are designed to get you to recognize your craving, to feel the sensation or desire to smoke, to feel the emotion associated with the situation, or to recognize within your body what’s going on when you feel stress. Experiencing these feelings in VR helps you prepare to manage your craving once you are out in the real world.

There are hundreds of triggers that the smoker experiences and, unless he or she manages to recognize and respond in a creative way, the past patterns of behavior (e.g. your old smoking habits) tend to repeat themselves. By using VR to practice confronting situations that trigger you to smoke, you will be able to take a step back, observe yourself being triggered, and watch yourself like in the movies. This process allows you to start choosing your own decisions consciously and avoiding your automatic reaction to light up.

The MindCotine smoking cessation program contains a series of virtual environments that train your mental, emotional, and bodily states to help you to quit and stay smoke-free for good. MindCotine offers a combination of exposure therapies, mindfulness training, activation control techniques, and you can practice from the comfort of your own home. To learn more about MindCotine’s clinically proven program, click here.