Preventing Relapse Through VR

In a technology-driven era, Trevor O’Brien has sought to find ways to connect our virtual and physical spaces. As a psychology and multi-disciplinary design student participating in the Lassonde+X program, he sought to dedicate his studies to a subject close to his heart: addiction recovery. In formulating his idea, he consulted rehabilitation participants to seek advice on how he could use virtual reality to simulate potential situations someone may experience once they leave their recovery program. O’Brien intended to create opportunities for growth with support from trained professionals, so that participants could progress in a safe environment.

O’Brien wanted to find a beneficial aspect rather than focus on the negatives associated with technology. “This project was a conjunction of two things I care a lot about,” he said. Having supported loved ones in their journeys through addiction recovery, O’Brien knew firsthand the difficulties of rehabilitation, which he aimed to alleviate. He was first inspired to begin this project by professor Sarah Creem-Regehr, who mentioned the potential of using technology as treatment for addiction. “One thing that crossed my mind was the saying of ‘practice makes perfect,’ so I thought about using VR as a tool for those struggling with addiction to practice being in testing situations,” he explained.

As he continues to research and develop this project, O’Brien hopes that its implementation will improve the functioning of rehabilitation programs by strengthening participants so that they are less likely to relapse. “Going through addiction is difficult and lonely … I want to help build people’s confidence,” he said.

More articles like this in ‘Student Innovation @ the U!’

Find this article and a lot more in the 2021 “Student Innovation @ the U” report. The publication is presented by the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute to celebrate student innovators, change-makers, and entrepreneurs.

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About the Author:

Brianna Bernhardt Brianna is an artist, administrator, and freelance writer who recently graduated magna cum laude from the University of Utah. She is driven by nonprofit development, arts advocacy, and community engaged learning. Her creative work and philanthropic aspirations seek to enrich life for all people. Find her on LinkedIn here and Instagram @bybriannabernhardt.

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