You Can Now Overcome Your Phobia Of Spiders, Cockroaches, Heights & More With VR Therapy

The treatment seeks to help people overcome their fears gradually.

Cover image via SAYS &

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Do you have a phobia of insects, heights, or tight spaces?

For some of us, just the thought of cockroaches, spiders, or lizards makes us feel super geli inside. Or, looking down a 20-storey building might give us a mini panic attack from being so high up. :O

In most cases, this is perfectly normal. However, there are some cases where phobias may become a cause of concern, especially when they start affecting other aspects of your life.

One of the ways to help people deal with phobia is through virtual reality (VR) therapy. We recently got to try it out at MentCouch, a multidisciplinary psychological centre, located in the heart of KL.

Before we started, they explained to us about VR therapy and what to expect

According to the team of qualified psychologists from MentCouch, this type of therapy seeks to expose patients to situations or things that they're afraid of so they can slowly overcome them. It is also sometimes exposed to soldiers to help them with their PTSD.

They also briefly explained the aspects of VR therapy and how it worked. Shortly after that, it was time to put the goggles on.

First, we needed to choose a situation or environment that we weren't comfortable in

Image via SAYS

So far, MentCouch offers VR therapy scenarios for these nine different environments:

1. Driving phobia (Amaxophobia)
2. Height phobia (Acrophobia)
3. Flying phobia (Aerophobia)
4. Animal and Insect phobia (Cat, Dogs, Spiders, Pigeons, cockroaches)
5. Tight spaces phobia (claustrophobia)
6. Cleanliness (Mysophobia)
7. Fear of exams (Examinophobia)
8. Fear of Medical appointments (blood and MRI scan) (Iatrophobia)
9. Social Anxiety

Being afraid of being up in tall, towering spaces, we chose heights. Next, we put the VR goggles on and were asked to measure our distress levels on a scale from 1 to 10. Then, we were brought through the exposure therapy exercise.

There was a therapist on standby throughout the entire session, and they were in charge of setting the intensity levels of these environments

What this means is, patients can decide whether they want to ease in to these situations by starting with something a less intense or jumping straight to something that absolutely terrifies them. In video game terms, you could liken this to easy, normal, and hard modes.

One of MentCouch's psychologists, Abdul Rouf, told us one of the most common anxieties that Malaysians seek treatment for is social anxiety which encompasses of public speaking and mingling around in social situations.

Throughout the exercise, you'll be able to hear an AI voice guiding you to do a number of guided mental exercises

Image via SAYS

These light activities could range from breathing exercises to some stretching too! On the VR lens itself, you'll be placed in an area where you are exposed to your phobia. 

At the end of the exercise, patients will be asked to measure their distress levels again

If it's lesser than what they measured prior to experiencing the exposure therapy, it's safe to say that the session had a positive feedback on the patient.

MentCouch and Sun Life Malaysia, a life insurance and family takaful provider, were the brains behind this operation

Sun Life Malaysia and MentCouch initiated their Brighter Wellness programme, which is orchestrated by qualified psychologists to keep people aware of the importance of keeping a healthy life and a healthy mind. 

The campaign seeks to facilitate exposure therapy through the lens of VR

According to Tricia Loh, Head of Brand and Communications of Sun Life Malaysia, their goal for the partnership is to spread awareness and ensure people live healthier lives. 

Healthy lives goes beyond being physically fit, it goes for mental and financial aspects as well. As such, MentCouch's goal aligns with Sun Life Malaysia.

As one of the pioneers for VR therapy in Malaysia, MentCouch seeks to make some noise in this scene

By utilising exposure therapy, potential clients are able to choose from an extensive list of phobias that are set out in the software.

MentCouch's representatives also told us that VR Therapy is meant to serve as a continuous process rather than a one-off solution.

Patients are not expected to be cured of their phobias and traumas instantly after practicing exposure therapy, but rather — are recommended to go through the exercise at least once a week.

However, they can choose to do it as less or more than they want according to their preference.

VR therapy can also help ease public perception towards mental health issues

Sun Life Malaysia's Head of Brands And Communications, Tricia Loh (left) posing with MentCouch's Founder and CEO, Tanjina Ashraf Khan (right)

Image via Sun Life Malaysia and MentCouch (provided to SAYS)

Tanjina Ashraf Khan, founder and CEO of MentCouch says that there's still a stigma being enforced in the public's perception whenever we mention words like therapy and mental health. 

However, if more people take the time to find out more about it, to learn that it's actually a fun and relaxing thing, they may be more compelled to try it.

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