A virtual reality experience for OCD exposure therapy

Virtual reality (VR) has been used in academic research for years, but has only recently been translating into therapy. Mindwave worked with the CAMHS OCD team to design a flexible virtual environment that is difficult to find or recreate in-clinic.


The World Health Organisation ranks OCD as one of the 10 most handicapping conditions. Mindwave had 10 weeks to develop a virtual reality experience for safe use in OCD exposure therapy, for young people who had a fear of germs. Elements of the environment should be controlled by the clinician, enabling them to add new exposure tasks and monitor the service user ’s response.


We began exploring the common needs and found the clinic bathroom was an overly popular space used during exposure therapy. However, it was often not fit for its therapeutic purpose, i.e. it was not dirty enough and there were often queues outside. Funded by Bethnal Green Ventures in their winter Accelerator Programme from January ­‐ March 2015, Mindwave began creating a virtual bathroom.


Using the Oculus Rift we developed a VR experience that can be controlled by clinicians to suit the level of exposure required. A clinician can tailor the environment: adding hair, tissues, grime or mold to personalise the space for service users with minimal preparation. The next steps of this project will involve gathering physiological data on an individual’s response and mapping this against their experience. Additionally, Mindwave is seeking funding to develop a clinical trial and develop the evidence base of VR used for therapeutic purposes.

In partnership with:
  • South London and Maudsley's Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS)
  • Bethnal Green Ventures