_MEDICINE Medicine

Therapy via Screen
Is virtual reality the next big thing in art therapy?

_Girija Kaimal

Kaimal is an assistant professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions.

The ever-expanding field of virtual reality has been used in health care settings like physical rehabilitation and made its way into therapy settings to reduce phobias and delusions. Could VR also be used as an expressive tool in art therapy?

To try to answer this question, researchers from Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions in the Creative Arts Therapies Department conducted one of the first studies of its kind to systematically examine how art therapy can be integrated into virtual reality-based expression to enhance patient care.

“Art therapy is founded on the idea that creative expression with an art therapist facilitates communication and problem solving, reduces inhibition, alleviates depressive symptoms and promotes personal development,” says lead author of the study Girija Kaimal, an associate professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions.

In the study, five men and 12 women engaged in free-form, immersive VR art-making for about 20 to 25 minutes, and were then invited to discuss their experience during a therapeutic session. The results were published in the Journal of Art Therapy Association in September 2019.

“This study provides the groundwork for VR as an art therapy tool, especially as the technology becomes more sophisticated,” Kaimal says.


This Intriguing 3D virtual reality artwork was created by study participants.