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Partnership project ‘Follow the Dot to Beat your Anxiety’ starts December 1st

Published: 30th November 2020 Last updated: 30th November 2020

With the support of a Public-Private Partnership grant of Health~Holland, Topsector Life Sciences & Health, Janniek de Jong is starting a research project into the use of Virtual Reality (VR) in the treatment of children and adolescents with post-traumatic stress symptoms on December 1st, 2020. She will cooperate with the Psylaris software company as well as various healthcare institutions. Dr. Esther Hartman, Dr. Annemiek Karreman, and Professor Tom Smeets will supervise this PhD project, embedded within the Medical and Clinical Psychology Department of the Tilburg School of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

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Approximately 30% of all children and adolescents who have experienced a traumatic event develop post-traumatic stress symptoms. A frequently used therapy to reduce the effects of trauma is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). EMDR may be effective but, in many young people, the symptoms return when they are confronted with the traumatic situation at home. As a possible solution to reducing relapse, software company Psylaris has developed a VR application for EMDR treatment. With VR-based EMDR, a child can practice in its own environment and prepare better for the confrontation with the trauma-related event or situation.

In this four-year PhD project, the innovative VR application for EMDR will be further developed and scientifically tested on a group of children aged 8-17 with post-traumatic stress symptoms. VR-based EMDR stimulates self-care in the family context and is expected to reduce the recurrence of symptoms, improving patient satisfaction and quality of life. This multi-faceted study consists of an applied part and a fundamental part, in collaboration with four hospitals (pediatric psychology), five mental healthcare institutions, the Psylaris company who developed the VR-based EMDR headset, and Tilburg University. It is hoped and expected that the use of this form of VR in clinical practice not only helps patients, but will also shorten waiting lists in youth healthcare and reduce healthcare expenditure.

The collaboration project Follow the Dot to Beat your Anxiety – Using EMDR in Virtual Reality at home to diminish trauma and anxiety in youth is co-funded by a PPP grant provided by Health~Holland, Topsector Life Sciences & Health to stimulate public-private partnerships.

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