‘After, I feel ecstatic and emotional’: could virtual reality replace therapy?
Leslie Channell admits he’s not a typical case for treatment. Channell, known to everybody as Chann, is a registered pilot who served 24 years in the army working on Apache helicopters. Chann also happens to be scared of heights. He doesn’t mind flying planes or sitting on the side of the Apache with the door open; he’s just terrified of going up two or three floors of a building or driving over a bridge.
Chann is nervous; his speech is fast. He says he’s sweating. We meet at a trendy startup in Oxford, where he is about to undergo virtual-reality therapy for his phobia (although the term “virtual-reality” therapy is controversial: some say the VR is just a tool for the therapy; others argue that the virtual reality is the therapy itself). Psychologists are now trialling VR for all kinds of conditions, from phobias to pain management to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).