I enjoyed an engaging interview with Dr. Albert "Skip" Rizzo, a pioneer and leader in the development and use of Virtual Reality in psychotherapy and other medical applications. We discussed the history of Virtual Reality Therapy (VRT), and current uses for treating everything from anxiety disorders to autism spectrum disorders. Dr. Rizzo really blew my mind with his newest innovative VRT project -- integrating VRT with psychedelic assisted psychotherapy.
Dr. Rizzo is Director for Medical Virtual Reality at the Institute for Creative Technologies, and Research Professor at USC Davis School of Gerontology and USC Keck School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences.
He conducts research on the design, development and evaluation of virtual reality (VR) systems targeting the areas of clinical assessment, treatment rehabilitation and resilience. This work spans the domains of psychological, cognitive and motor functioning in both healthy and clinical populations. Dr. Rizzo received the American Psychological Association’s 2010 Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Treatment of Trauma. Rizzo is working with a team that is creating artificially intelligent virtual patients that clinicians can use to practice skills required for challenging clinical interviews and diagnostic assessments. His cognitive work has addressed the use of VR applications to test and train attention, memory, visuospatial abilities and executive function. In the motor domain, he has developed VR game systems to address physical rehabilitation post stroke and traumatic brain injury and for prosthetic use training. He is currently designing VR scenarios to address social and vocational interaction in persons with autistic spectrum disorder. Rizzo is currently examining the use of VR applications for training emotional coping skills with the aim of preparing service members for the stresses of combat.