XR Therapeutics: Immersive tech to treat ageing population phobias
XRT, a spin out of Newcastle University, based on 9 years of academic research, combines traditional CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) with gradual exposure to treat phobias and anxiety in older adults. Treatment is delivered using VR (Virtual Reality) technology within a fully immersive VR cave.
About the project
XRT is a start-up company which has been span out of Newcastle University, based on 9 years of academic research. Our service combines traditional CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) with gradual exposure to treat phobias and anxiety. Our treatment is delivered using VR (Virtual Reality) technology within a fully immersive VR cave. Our treatment can be adapted by the therapist in real time. We work alongside the clinicians and the end users to develop the best treatment for the individual.
Administering traditional CBT to an individual can take anywhere between 12 to 20 sessions before the patient observes noticeable impact. Our treatment shortens this to 4 sessions over a 2-week period and when treating phobias, this can be achieved in just 1 session. We have already successfully treated 50 patients and 50% of them experienced significant improvements. Our work so far has focussed on autistic patients but we are now opening up this treatment to the other 99% of the population.
Our aim for this project is to extend our services to the general public, specifically adults over 50. In 2019, there were approximately 25 million people over the age of 50 living in the UK (Clark, 2020). Nearly half of adults (7.7million) aged 55+ say they have experienced depression and around the same number (7.3 million) have suffered with anxiety, according to new YouGov research for the charity Age UK (NHS England, 2020). Further research found that there was 19% (1.39 million across the UK) concurrent comorbidity between anxiety and phobias (Ohayon & Schatzbeg 2010).
The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing identified over 50s as a group particularly at risk of social isolation. If you then add a serious phobia or fear to this group, you vastly reduce their ability to sustain work and remain both physically and mentally healthy.
Some of the phobias we will focus on for the over 50s are; agoraphobia, claustrophobia, entomophobia and cynophobia. Phobias and fears can negatively affect people’s ability to live independently and remain socially connected.