RECOVRY: Virtual Reality therapy for people with an alcohol addiction

On 10 April 2018, NHTV and Novadic-Kentron (NK) agreed to carry out research into how virtual reality technology could contribute to the recovery of clients after a detoxification process from alcohol. The project which is entitled RECOVRY (standing for RElapse COntrol VR TherapY) will research how clients can use new virtual reality technology to enable them to gain the upper hand over their alcohol addiction after detoxification.

Secure environment

The goal is to prepare clients in the secure environment of the clinic for their return home and in such a way to prevent the chance of a relapse. At the initiative of the Medical Director Dr Victor Buwalda, Novadic-Kentron (the institution in Brabant for the care and treatment of addicts) together with NHTV (Academy for Digital Entertainment in Breda, expert in the area of Virtual Reality technology) will form the incubator in which the central question is how Virtual Reality can be used during the treatment and for measuring its effect. In this both the care providers as well as clients at NK will be intensively involved.

What makes this project so special?

By now Virtual Reality has proved in diverse ways that the effect of treatment when it is applied demonstrates striking improvements in comparison with other, more traditional therapies. People who were being treated for an anxiety disorder, PTSS, a fear of spiders and a fear of heights have shown to have benefited from the treatment supported by Virtual Reality, partially because a situation can be virtually imitated and experienced very realistically. Virtual Reality is also currently being experimented with in the care of addicts and the place it could possibly take in their treatment.

What makes this project so special is that clients together with care providers at NK and developers at NHTV create and imitate several virtual environments in which the client can participate under the supervision of the care provider. A number of ‘worlds’ are created: a home situation such as somebody’s living room, a positive environment in which people feel at ease and strong, but also an environment which causes stress and increases the pressure to relapse such as a pub, for example.

It is the intention that the care provider supervises clients during the therapy in participating in these various virtual worlds to enable them to learn to gain a better grasp of their own problems. In this way clients will gain greater control over their own recovery.

Testing prototype

NK found NHTV as a partner to, jointly and in assignment to NK, carry out research into this interesting and promising addition to the treatment arsenal. In the months to come and by means of testing a prototype it will be examined whether clients can indeed gain a greater grasp of their alcohol and other addictions with the help of various virtual living environments. The first research results are expected at the end of 2018.

More information about this project: