Using Virtual Reality in College Student Mental Health Treatment

Using Virtual Reality in College Student Mental Health Treatment

Nidhi Sinha
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4960-5.ch012
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When students leave home to attend college, they encounter many adjustments and new experiences. Some students have difficulty coping with the challenges they experience and over time may develop mild to severe mental health issues. Mental health illness among college students is associated with long-term adverse academic outcomes, including dropout. With an exponential rise in mental health issues among university students, there is a dire need to reach out to newer technologies to help students effectively cope with academic and social challenges. Given the increased accessibility and practicality of virtual reality (VR) use in mental health, it becomes paramount to extend the utility of VR to university counselling settings including the preliminary assessment, diagnosis, and treatment strategies to guide students to effectively address any mental health challenges. There are potential implications and challenges associated with the use of VR within universities' counselling settings as well.
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With the advent of technological advancement in the counselling and psychotherapy, Virtual Reality (VR) has emerged as a promising tool, which has demonstrated its utility in assessing, diagnosing and treating mental health conditions, as precisely indicated by the last two decades of research in this area (Emmelkamp et al., 2002; Krijn et al., 2004; Krijn et at., 2007). The subsequent paragraphs, therefore, aim to provide a richer understanding of the rising mental health issues among university students, followed by a brief glimpse into the existing applications of VR for mental health treatment in clinical settings. Moreover, with an overview of an existing subset of literature in the field of VR with a particular emphasis of its application in mental health, this chapter also aspires to illuminate its readers and campus counselling services to identify opportunities, strengths, and future directions to integrate virtual reality in university settings.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Stress: A feeling of emotional and physiological tension owing to an external challenges or demands.

Emotion Regulation: One’s ability to respond to one’s ongoing demands of emotional experience, when needed or demanded.

Phobia: A type of anxiety disorder that underlies excessive and long-lasting fear of objects and situations.

Emotion Perception: One’s ability to recognize and identify subjective experience of emotions in others by interpreting their biological and physiological changes.

Student Counselling: Includes use of various psychological and behavioral tools and suggestive measures to help students cope with their mental health issues.

Social Anxiety: A mental health condition leading individuals to fear social situations (e.g., leaving one’s home or interacting with others in public).

Mental Health: A person’s optimal level of psychological and emotional well-being.

University Counselling Services: The psychological services offered to the students and staffs within a college or university settings.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation: A relaxation technique, which involves simple tensing or tightening of muscles followed by a relaxation phase, lasting usually for 10-20 mins.

Psychotherapeutic Techniques: Psychological, cognitive, or behavioral techniques used by psychiatrists, psychologists, licensed counsellors to treat individuals with mental health challenges using therapist-client collaboration.

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