Virtual rehabilitation is a concept in psychology in which a therapeutic patient's training is based entirely on, or is augmented by, virtual reality simulation exercises. If there is no conventional therapy provided, the rehabilitation is said to be "virtual reality-based." Otherwise, if virtual rehabilitation is in addition to conventional therapy, the intervention is "virtual reality-augmented." Today, a majority of the population uses the virtual environment to navigate their daily lives and almost one fourth of the world population uses the internet. As a result, virtual rehabilitation and gaming rehabilitation, or rehabilitation through gaming consoles, have become quite common. In fact, virtual therapy has been used over regular therapeutic methods in order to treat a number of disorders.
The term Virtual Rehabilitation was coined in 2002 by Professor Daniel Thalmann of EPFL (Switzerland) and Professor Grigore Burdea of Rutgers University (USA). In their view the term applies to both physical therapy and cognitive interventions (such as for patients suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, phobias, anxieties, attention deficits or amnesia). Since 2008, the virtual rehabilitation "community" has been supported by the International Society on Virtual Rehabilitation 
Virtual rehabilitation offers a number of advantages compared to conventional therapeutic methods:
- It is entertaining, thus motivating the patient;
- It provides objective outcome measures of therapy efficacy (limb velocity, range of movement, error rates, game scores, etc.);
- These data are transparently stored by the computer running the simulation and can be made available on the Internet.
- Thus virtual rehabilitation can be performed in the patient's home and monitored at a distance (becoming telerehabilitation)
- The client feels more actively involved in the desensitization
Factors to consider:
- cultural sensitivity
- financing virtual therapy
Notes and references
- International Society on Virtual Rehabilitation website: http://www.isvr.org/
- Burdea G. “Keynote Address: Virtual Rehabilitation-Benefits and Challenges,” 1st International Workshop on Virtual Reality Rehabilitation (Mental Health, Neurological, Physical, Vocational) VRMHR 2002 Lausanne, Switzerland, November 7 and 8, pp. 1-11, 2002. Reprinted in the 2003 International Medical Informatics Association Yearbook of Medical Informatics, Heidelberg, Germany, pp. 170-176 and in Journal of Methods of Information in Medicine, Schattauer, German, (invited), pp. 519-523, 2003.
Fenichel, M. (2010). Next stop: virtual psychology and therapy. Current Topics in Psychology. <http://www.fenichel.com/virtual.shtml>.