What Are the Benefits of Using Augmented and Virtual Reality in Addiction Treatment?

We live in an age where technology is advancing extremely quickly. This has greatly benefited the medical, addiction treatment, and therapy fields, which means that every day recovering addicts have access to more methods of safe and effective care. One of these advancements is augmented and virtual reality therapy. This new technology benefits recovering addicts in many different ways. Here are the benefits of augmented and virtual reality therapy in addiction treatment and recovery. 

 What Is Virtual Reality? 

Virtual reality is an immersive experience that makes you feel as if you are somewhere else. This is done by wearing a VR headset that captures your head and sometimes even your eye movements to have the picture on the screen move with them. Although most people think of this technological advancement improving video games, virtual reality has also had a positive impact on many professional fields. This, of course, includes fields that are prevalent in addiction treatment and recovery such as alcohol and drug rehab. 

What Is Augmented Reality? 

Augmented reality has many of the same benefits of virtual reality. However, it works a little differently. Augmented reality works by filming the existing world around you and by tracking your movements and the movement of objects in front of you. It then incorporates virtual objects onto the backdrop, which is the environment around you. Many popular apps such as Instagram and Snapchat have used augmented reality to make unique filters for photos, and even some popular games like Pokemon Go have used it. However, like virtual reality, there are many benefits to augmented reality being used during addiction treatment and recovery as well. 

How Does Augmented and Virtual Reality Therapy Work?

Augmented and virtual reality are very useful when it comes to things like therapy and addiction treatment. This is because it provides a safe space for patients to work through difficult situations that they may encounter in the real world, work through difficult emotions, and develop healthy coping mechanisms. 

How Can Augmented and Virtual Reality Benefit Addiction Treatment?

There are many benefits to incorporating augmented and virtual reality into addiction treatment and recovery. This type of therapy can be used at any time during the addiction recovery process including an alcohol or drug detox. “The three main benefits are creating a safe space to develop and practice healthy coping mechanisms, become desensitized to addiction triggers, and to work through difficult emotions”, says Terri Edwards, COO at Briarwood Detox.

A Safe Space to Develop Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Learning how to develop and practice healthy coping mechanisms is an essential part of addiction treatment and recovery. Although recovering addicts can learn this crucial life skill in other ways, augmented and virtual reality have made this process easier. This has been done by providing a recovering addict with a safe space to develop and practice these healthy coping mechanisms. This safe space is created by having a simulation that seems real but isn’t. This way there are not any serious consequences like there may be in real life. 

A Safe Space to Become Desensitized to Addiction Triggers 

Possibly the most common way that augmented and virtual reality is used during addiction treatment and recovery is to desensitize recovering addicts to their addiction triggers. Of course, this is done in a safe way because the trigger is not actually there, and usually this type of therapy is done when a recovering addict is in an Austin rehab facility. An example of this is haveign a virtual environment of a bar for a recovering alcoholic who used to frequently go to them. Although desensitization like this is a useful tool for those in addiction recovery, it is important to stress that avoiding addiction triggers when you can is still extremely important for preventing a relapse.

A Safe Space to Work Through Emotions 

Unfortunately, mental health issues and mental conditions often coexist with substance abuse and addictions. Due to this fact many recovering addicts also require, or at least benefit from, various types of therapy. Therapy is yet another field that has benefited from the invention of augmented and virtual realities. Although there are many benefits to incorporating AR and VR to this field, the main benefit to recovering addicts is that it provides a safe space to work through difficult emotions such as fear and stress. 


Augmented and virtual reality have presented many benefits to addiction treatment and recovery. These technologies have allowed for someone to experience a scenario that feels real, but it is in fact just a simulation. When it comes to AR and VR therapy, this creates a safe space for recovering addicts to work through difficult emotions, develop and practice healthy coping mechanisms, and desensitize themselves to addiction triggers in a safe way. This is because even though an environment and situation seems to be real, it lacks the consequences that a real world encounter may involve. 

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Christophe Rude

Christophe Rude

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