MELBOURNE, Australia, March 10, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- The world's first scientific paper offering a careful evaluation of the synergistic use of Virtual Reality (VR) and Psychedelic Assisted Psychotherapy (PAP) was published today by psychedelic researcher Agnieszka D. Sekula and medical doctor Dr. Prashanth Puspanathan, the co-founders of Enosis Therapeutics Pty Ltd, a research & development company focused on psychedelic experience design, and a Swinburne University professor, Luke Downey.
Appearing in the globally recognized and peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Psychology, the paper titled, "Virtual Reality as a Moderator for Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy," responds to the recent surge of interest in leveraging VR as an adjunct to psychedelic therapy that is driven mostly by commercial players from the VR space.
The paper synthesizes the highest quality scientific evidence on both PAP and VR therapy and examines potential advantages of this model against any limitations, side effects or adverse events that may occur.
VR is a powerful technology that allows for an infinite number of design solutions to be tested and personalized for every patient. However, authors warn that simply offering a beautiful or engaging VR scenarios may lead to a risk of misguiding or distracting from the profound, inner healing pathway that PAP facilitates. Instead, results of the synthesis suggest other, less obvious applications of VR in psychedelic treatment, which are largely based on the altered state mechanisms shared between VR and psychedelic experiences, including alterations of self-experience, sensory perception augmentation, and mystical-type experiences.
"VR enables patients to tap into non-cognitive, emotional and embodied processes of healing that are at the core of the psychedelic experience but are difficult to evoke with currently used talk therapy," explains Agnieszka Sekula. "In our approach, the patient takes leadership of their entire treatment program, and VR's capacity for simultaneous multisensory stimulation and self-expression encourages that. Through repeated use, VR also builds a cohesive trajectory for all phases of treatment, allowing for it to continue beyond formal integration sessions. As such, VR offers patients the sense of permanence and connection with their altered state experience, that current integration sessions do not."
Authors provide clear recommendations on how clinicians and research organizations can best utilize VR integrated into a robust PAP protocol and outline contextual VR design specifications that may benefit the treatment the most, whilst encouraging further empirical exploration of this unique combination.
"While there has been a tremendous focus on driving innovation in psychedelic treatment, the majority of it centres around drug discovery and compound identification, as well as therapist-led approaches and psychedelic training models," claims Dr. Prashanth Puspanathan. "We believe that greater exploration of the design of healing environments may offer sustainable, patient-driven solutions to anyone who works with psychedelics."
The research demonstrates that VR is an ideal candidate to be used for this exploration, simultaneously allowing a further glimpse into psychological and neurological mechanisms that are at play during an altered state.
Virtual Reality as a Moderator for Psychedelic Assisted Psychotherapy was published as part of the special research topic The Psychotherapeutic Framing of Psychedelic Drug Administration in Frontiers in Psychology (March 22) and can be accessed here.
About Enosis Therapeutics
Enosis Therapeutics Pty Ltd. is a psychedelic start-up founded by Agnieszka D. Sekula, a psychedelic researcher at Swinburne University, and Dr. Prashanth Puspanathan, a Melbourne based medical doctor and long-time psychedelic advocate. Enosis was formed to advance experiential design in psychedelic-based treatment by leveraging virtual reality's unique, state-altering properties.
Enosis sits at the intersection of research and industry, providing carefully designed virtual reality scenarios and clinical protocols that employ them at specific points of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy to improve the quality of the patient experience and therapy outcomes.
Founders aim to empower patients to take leadership in their own healing journey by using VR to break away from the constraints of the analog system. Their therapeutic approach promotes non-cognitive, experiential, emotional and embodied aspects of treatment.
SOURCE Enosis Therapeutics