Dr. Jessica Stone is a licensed psychologist and registered play therapist who has been experimenting with integrating technologies into her therapeutic practice specializing in working with children. She and her husband developed a Virtual Sandtray application for the iPad, which allows her clients to build virtual worlds that becomes an archetypal representation of the dynamics of their inner psyche. After seeing the initial success of this tool, then she requested that her husband create a version that would work with a PC VR and HTC Vive so that her clients could be completely immersed within the worlds that they’re creating for therapeutic insights.
Dr. Stone has found this virtual sandtray technique to be highly effective to allow her clients to communicate in a non-verbal, metaphoric, and symbolic way to go a lot deeper than using words alone.
I had a chance to talk to Dr. Stone at the Greenlight Strategy Conference about her journey into VR, and some of the early lessons she’s been learning from using VR within a psychologically therapeutic context. She’s currently exploring distribution options for the VR version of the virtual sandtray, and adding more remote session capability into the iOS version. She’s also been digesting her insights about the intersection of technology and therapy in a couple of books with Integrating Technology in Modern Therapies, 1st Edition released March 5, 2019, as well as the Digital Play Therapy, which was just released on July 16, 2020.
As more therapeutic applications are developed for VR, then we’ll likely see new design theories, theoretical frameworks, and metrics for success that primarily focus on the psychological wellness and well being of the patients. It’s still very early days of therapeutic VR and experiential medicine in general, and Dr. Stone is doing a lot of important foundational work that could continue to develop into new industry verticals for VR.