In these days when stress is high, we all need a little escape. Thanks to a generous grant from CDPHP, Living Resources has purchased a virtual reality platform- software and two headsets- from Psious. Through this technology, we can provide immersive mental health services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disorders.

These innovative sessions use virtual reality to create calming settings, called environments, to bring a deeper awareness of the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. For example, one environment showed a three-dimensional tree swaying in the breeze with leaves gently falling. Through the program, individuals are prompted to choose a leaf and follow its path to the ground. In this way, they practice breathing deeply, centering, and relaxing. Other such environments include a warm meadow or mountaintop, or a serene underwater seascape where they can float along with schools of fish, whales, and dolphins.

Once our individuals have more experience with using the technology to experience calming sensations, a licensed mental health professional will be able to use virtual settings to gradually, mindfully confront situations for which they feel fear or anxiety. For example, someone might utilize the environment of an elevator in an effort to become desensitized to feelings of anxiety in enclosed spaces. To the best of our knowledge, Living Resources is the only agency in the state that utilizes Virtual Reality Therapy to assist those with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

Assistant Director of Clinical Services Stephanie Fisher said, “We greatly appreciate CDPHP for bringing this innovative technology to us through their grant! Through virtual reality, our individuals are able to have an immersive experience where they can take abstract concepts they learn in group, such as mindfulness and calming exercises, and apply them in a new way. Using virtual reality in individual therapy, they can process what they are thinking and feeling with the therapist in that moment. It ties all those concepts together.”

This kind of cutting-edge equipment needs a tech-savvy person to run it. The Clinical Services Department didn’t have to look far to find their IT guy. For Austin Trackey, who lives at one of our residences and receives support services from Living Resources clinical department, technology comes naturally. When he was offered the twice-weekly position running the Virtual Reality room, his initial response was, “Let’s get started!” With Austin on board, the Clinical Services team has learned the program, worked out the kinks, and has begun using the room in therapeutic settings. Now, Austin is learning how to teach others what comes so naturally to him. He enjoys the paycheck associated with the position, but said, “Helping people is better than money.”