Conducting an Initial Virtual Reality Art Therapy Session

Once you understand the expressive power and potential of VR art-making and have the equipment to make it possible, how do you facilitate a therapeutic experience for another? Here are some preliminary steps for getting clients inside and immersed in the VR world, feeling comfortable with the equipment and free to move and create.

Intro to VR art through Google Cardboard

The easiest way for Virtual Reality Art Therapy consumers to understand art-making in VR is to experience it firsthand right at the start of a consultation. I provide complementary Google Cardboards (as my business card) however you could have one on hand for this purpose. There are a number of good websites and apps to show VR art. This provides a good foundation for introducing the high level art making equipment.

Calibrating Equipment

The next step is to introduce the head mounted display (HMD), sensors, and hand presence Touch controllers. The first thing I show are the various straps and how to adjust the headset for a comfortable fit. I also explain what to expect from the lenses such as the screen door and fresnel god ray effects. This is a good time to explain interpupillary distance and adjust it. Lastly, I explain sensor layout, the guardian system and where to move around. The Oculus Rift makes setup very easy and fast which is important when working within the time constraints of a consultation.

Introductory VR Art Making Experience

With many great VR art application options, it’s helpful to briefly explore what initially appeals to the client. Apps such as Tilt Brush and Quill are good choices for drawing and painting. For building and sculpting, Blocks and Medium are accessible apps to start. Some clients may be more hesitant to jump in and create. Self image and identity altering apps such as Mindshow and EmbodyMe may be a more comfortable introduction to VR and it’s creative possibilities. 

Finishing artwork, witnessing, and checking in

At this point the VR art therapy consumer has viewed examples of virtual reality artwork, has gotten comfortable with the equipment involved, and has had an initial experience creating art in VR. The next step is to check in with them in regards to how the consultation went and how you can support and empower them through further sessions. Witnessing the artwork together and sharing insights is a nice way to conclude.