Virtual Rehab is bringing its VR technology, honed in health, to prisons
“We develop programmes comprised of real-life scenarios and curriculum that prepare offenders along with drug/alcohol addicts to re-integrate back into society upon their release from prison and rehab centres,” founder Dr Raji Wahidy told “Our programmes include formal education, vocational job training, psychological rehabilitation, and correctional services rehabilitation.”
The programmes pair a widely accepted psychological treatment called cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) with exposure therapy. “The offender is immersed into a virtual environment where he or she experiences real-life scenarios that challenge them with typical decisions that they need to make upon their release,” Dr Wahidy said. “The offenders are measured against their actions and reactions to these scenarios.” The aim is to build self-awareness, as well as social, professional and behavioural skills, with the results then analysed by their therapist.
The idea is backed up by academic research stretching back to the mid-1990s, starting with Kaiser Permanente’s work on treating acrophobia, with similar technologies used to treat mental illness and PTSD. And, Dr Wahidy notes, it’s been proven that people grasp education better when they have a chance to practise. Virtual Rehab is already being used in the US, but is yet to roll out in the UK.
“Ideally, we would like for Virtual Rehab to be used as a tool which helps offenders to re-integrate back into society,” Dr Wahidy explained. “The last thing we want is for an offender to spend years in prison and come out not knowing how to behave or what to do, and as a result, re-offend all over again.”