This session is part of the Health After 2020 program at UBC Health. Health After 2020 supports researchers to engage in interdisciplinary collaborations and build a community of UBC Health scholars. Through the development of research collaborations, academic outputs, cross-campus conversations, and open dialogue sessions, the program convenes and informs people at the inflection point in our society created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Virtual reality (VR) is rapidly emerging as an effective tool to treat and assess mental health concerns. VR—which creates interactive, immersive, and naturalistic settings—has been shown to improve symptoms, promote functional recovery, and accurately assess real-world capabilities across a range of psychiatric disorders. The future will no doubt see VR incorporated into clinical care.

This, however, raises the question of whether we can ensure equitable access to VR therapies. Most existing VR programs require users to travel to a specialized site and use a complex interface. This prevents many from accessing VR, especially in the evolving post-COVID world. To ensure that all who can benefit from these tools can access them, developing effective and easy-to-use home-based VR tools is a pressing need.

UBC’s Department of Psychiatry is collaborating with the National Research Council Canada to develop a new VR platform for assessing and improving cognition in depression (bWell-D). An emerging goal of this collaboration is to advance the effective home-based administration of bWell-D and other VR mental health therapies. In this dialogue session, the research team will discuss their experiences developing bWell-D, the current landscape of home-based VR mental health tools, and future directions for home-based VR therapy.

– Dr. Kim McGrail, Director of Research, UBC Health
– Dr. Trisha Chakrabarty, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, UBC
– Dr. Elena Hernandez, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, UBC
– Nushi Choudhury, Research Officer, Canada Medical Devices Research Centre, National Research Council Canada
– Mark Hewko, Research Engineer, Canada Medical Devices Research Centre, National Research Council Canada

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