Plug into your virtual therapist?

An interesting article appeared in the new scientist by reporter Samantha Murphy in the article Murphy suggests that the interactive role-playing game “second life” could offer an innovative way of working for psychotherapists/counsellors. In the piece, Murphy suggests that an avatar; a virtual caricature of oneself, could see clients in a virtual office.eleos counselling_second life_article picture

This may not sound as far-fetched as one would imagine, think of the advantages, the client could log on from anywhere in the world and have a virtual therapy session, at any time of day or night.

The article did make some interesting suggestions, on how this may help clients. One suggestion was working with clients with phobias such as agoraphobia; in severe cases the client would not be able to leave the safety of their own home, but using a virtual space the client could experience what it’s like to be outside, whilst in the comfort of their own home. The article suggests that the therapist may be able to guide the client through stressful environments and help them manage this in virtual space. Effectively, the therapist could create stressful environments and help the client manage this using their avatar (their virtual person).

Another interesting suggestion was that it might be able for the psychotherapist councillor to reconstruct stressful environments for sufferers of PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder). Here again, the therapist would construct a virtual moment in time and help the client work through this in virtual space. Using virtual reality the client can really work in   the moment and the here and now. With the ability to be able to freeze time, in the virtual world, the therapist would be able to ask the client how they feel at that moment. Of course, how this all looks and how the therapist would hold professional boundaries in this virtual world is yet to be decided. Another factor, to be considered is would people, embrace new technology such as a virtual world quickly, or will this be a passing idea, time will only tell.

This is certainly pushing the boundaries, Eleos Counselling is very interested in embracing new technologies and has done since its inception in 2013. How working in virtual reality will really look like is yet to be seen, but please watch this space and we will keep you updated on our progression into the world of virtual reality.


Video games really do affect children



With Christmas comes the onslaught of various new video games and video game consoles, with each manufacturer and software house adding more  incredible realism ,year-on-year, to their games. In fact, one game uses a computer-generated Hollywood actor as part of the action. As technology becomes cheaper and more accessible, gaming graphics become more lifelike with stunning HD and now 4K, game graphics appear almost lifelike. It’s only a matter of time before gameplay become indistinguishable from real-life, it’s only an issue of computing power, and that is becoming cheaper. Unfortunately, there is a downside, as these graphics become more realistic, is it desensitising young people. A research study found that ,on average, gamers are playing these games up to 8 to 16 hours a day and researcher shown it has a startling effect.

A research paper(a meta-study) by Iowa State University compiled by Anderson and Bushmen looked at all research and came out with a startling conclusion stating that exposure to video games in college aged individuals heightened levels of aggression. There was one caveat to that statement that this research was only carried out on college-age students, it does not take into consideration younger adults who’ve been playing these games. The paper mentions an interesting fact, that the two students, which were involved in the Columbine high school massacre, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold  were themselves gamers. This is not to say that every child will turn out to be a perpetrator of mass violence, but one interesting fact was noticed that Harris created a customised version of the game Doom with two shooters, extra weapons and unlimited ammunition and victims that could not  fight back, features which are strikingly real, to the actual shootings.

The report stated that 90% of parents never checked the rating of a video game before allowing the purchase, with only 1% of the teen’s parents actually preventing the purchase based on the rating.

Fundamentally, the days of cute cartoons playing games are well and truly over, with more realism added each year, as technology becomes cheaper.

Finally, the report states that exposure, to violent video games, is positively linked with aggressive effects and psychological arousal; there is a relatively small amount of research carried out on the long-term effects on young adults, who play video games, Which is surprising, as young adults are playing these games for extended periods and in some cases without any adult vetting, or supervision.