Experiences with Virtual Reality Aggression Prevention Training (VRAPT)

By Anja den Tuinder, VRAPT trainer in the Pompekliniek

It was quite exciting for me to undergo the Virtual Reality Aggression Prevention Training (VRAPT) myself. At the same time, I felt and experienced the many possibilities of this training, especially for our forensic patients. As a skills trainer I work with the participants to let them practice (communication) skills in all areas of life, so that they are better prepared for their return to society. Since every person, including every TBS person, is different, tailor-made treatment is of great importance. When a participant feels personally addressed, touched, he is more open to change and awareness.

The participants with whom I have worked with VRAPT have already had a (sometimes for many years) course of treatment behind them. VRAPT, however, is something new again, but skepticism remained at the beginning.

After about half of the training it becomes more personal and interactive. The participant’s own input and the working relationship that has been built up are closely intertwined. Participants say, for example, that it “hits home”. They really stand in a different world for a moment and are addressed personally. “Ah, finally it’s about me”.

In a role play you have to imagine what a situation can be like. In VR you are in the middle of it for a moment.

A few examples:

  • A participant (who has little computer experience) is looking around with an open mouth (in awe) when he first wore the VR glasses. He was very impressed by this, “It’s so real”.
  • A participant, with a tough appearance, says beforehand that when a woman curses at him, it really doesn’t affect him. However, when this happens during a session, the participant shows a somewhat increased heart rate, but only after a few minutes. It was an eye-opener for him to realize that he does get tense, which he then has to “get rid of” at a later point in time, while it then seems as if he gets angry with someone “from out of nowhere” at that later point in time.
  • When a participant sees a uniformed person, his heartbeat quickly increases. It doesn’t matter if this person looks very friendly, neutral or angry. As a result, the person involved realized that he “will never be able to respond normally to a police officer”.
  • Little by little during the training a participant learned to allow his feelings to increase. And became aware of the relationship feeling has with behavior. What happens during the interactive sessions, discussed in combination with the social information processing model, both trainer and participant experienced as very meaningful.
  • A participant indicates that after the training he is much more aware of what is going on in his body and how he himself (still) has influence to (learn to) deal with it.
  • The great thing about VRAPT is, that awareness increases so much, that the participant really gets the feeling that he or she is getting more autonomy about his or her treatment. Being able to influence your own life is so important and is sometimes underestimated by counsellors. VRAPT really contributes to more awareness that it is “about you”.