The role of virtual reality in art therapy to mitigate autism spectrum disorder (ASD) symptoms
Open Journal of Clinical & Medical Images
Traditional art therapy sessions are designed for face-to-face engagement with patients as with other mental health services such as counseling. However, the pandemic of 2019 severely limited access to these services and, initially, led to widespread cancelation and postponement until the nature of COVID-19 could be better understood. When treatment resumed, video conferencing was the preferred method of holding therapy sessions one-on-one to diagnose patients and provide services. Similar approaches were taken in art therapy with less efficacy given the hands-on nature of the required activities. With the rise of virtual reality (VR) as a more widely accessible technology since 2020 has provided the ability to engage with individuals in a simulated virtual environments (VEs) from any location. Of those that have need of acute attention paid to sensory issues are those with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and VR is well-suited to benefit the population. The expansion and availability of immersive reality content and hardware has positioned clinical psychology and art therapy to capitalize on the customizable VEs for therapeutic purposes. But the potential benefits of VR to support those with ASD through art therapy have only recently been broached. Research has hitherto focused on how the technology may be adapted for use in addressing methodological and clinical issues in psychological assessment. This study seeks to expand the discourse on the use of VR for art therapy in providing services to the neurodiverse community and ameliorate the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Through the abilities of immersive reality to adjust light, sound, smells, haptics, and other environmental factors to the needs of an individual, as well as the ability to ease cognitive load and stress associated with eye contact through the use of avatars, art therapy sessions can focus on reducing environmental variables and thus limit the need for masking and other behaviors that impede the therapeutic process.
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Hutson, James, "The role of virtual reality in art therapy to mitigate autism spectrum disorder (ASD) symptoms" (2022). Faculty Scholarship. 446.