Virtual Reality treatment is for specific phobias (i.e. a marked fear or anxiety about a specific object or situation that impacts on functioning) in 7-17 year olds with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and average ability. The treatment is modified cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) delivered by a healthcare professional within an innovative immersive virtual reality setting.
Detailed assessment of the young person’s specific phobia is undertaken to inform the virtual reality treatment plan. Following an initial telephone or MS Teams meeting a home visit or clinic appointment is arranged to discuss and plan treatment. This involves work on understanding emotions and exploring which treatment strategies are likely to be effective for the individual.
Treatment consists of 4 personalised sessions, following a meeting with the clinical team, including the healthcare professional leading treatment.
During treatment, the young person sits inside a virtual reality room with a therapist. Projected images on a 180 degrees curved screen are made to replicate the young person’s specific phobia.
The healthcare professional works with the young person on cognitive and behavioural strategies that are likely to be helpful in managing their anxiety. Parents/carers are able to watch and listen from another room, so they learn about the strategies and see the therapist implement these.
Virtual reality treatment is led by:
Dr Victoria Grahame, Consultant Clinical Psychologist
Dr Laura Tavernor, Senior Clinical Psychologist
Barry Morgan, Team Coordinator
The multidisciplinary team that assists with the delivery of virtual reality treatment includes:
Clinical Psychologists and Assistant Psychologists
Nurse Specialists in ASD
Young people with a clinical diagnosis of ASD; aged 7-17 years (under 18 years) with a specific phobia; who are able to understand and use sentence level speech.
We will be happy to discuss any questions about eligibility for treatment via CNDS. Young people open to Cumbria, Northumberland Tyne and Wear (CNTW) NHS Foundation Trust should access treatment through their local CYPS team.
Who can make a referral?
Referrals are accepted from all over the UK.
Referrals should be from locality Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services or Child Health/Paediatric Services, or General Practitioners.
There is a cost of £3500.00 for the virtual reality treatment – this cost must be funded through a local source – for example, local commissioners.
Once a referral has been accepted, CNTW finance department will contact the young person’s local clinical commissioning group (or equivalent) regarding payment for treatment.
Referral must include:
• Completed virtual reality CNDS referral form
• Details about the young person’s specific phobia, (including details about the situation that provokes anxiety, frequency of occurrence, impact on the child and family)
• Summary of current diagnoses/formulation
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