Can Virtual Reality (VR) really change behaviour?

Can Virtual Reality (VR) really change behaviour? Cornerstone are helping local government embed VR in learning and development programmes as well as real social work practice and have seen this technology radically transform the way people work and think…

The value of VR in training has long been recognised by the military, aerospace and resource industries to simulate situations too risky or impractical to recreate in the real world. VR is also widely used by video gamers and, more recently, the healthcare and automotive sectors have embraced the technology. Less visible has been the emergence of VR in other, traditionally lower tech, industries but that is changing as organisations start to see the potential for training, assessment and even therapy. Most recently VR has made its appearance in the social care and mental health space arena. VR in these instances not only aims to educate but, crucially, to drive behavioural change. Where there is an emotional context to the learning VR has been found to be an extremely effective tool. Enabling the user to ‘experience’ trauma, abuse and neglect through the eyes of a child, but in a safe, controlled space, allows the viewer to feel real emotions such as anger, fear and helplessness. This added emotional layer may make the experience richer and the learning deeper.

 By integrating VR into an intervention such as post-adoption support, Cornerstone VR™ allows social workers to engage with adoptive parents, foster carers and alternative care-givers to examine and reflect on the emotions elicited by the VR experience. We want everyone involved in caring for looked-after children to better understand what might lie behind a child’s behaviour. VR can help all stakeholders, including teachers and the judiciary, replace the notion of a naughty child with that of the traumatised child. 

After piloting for 12 months and working with 30+ local authorities in the UK, we have been very encouraged by the results and are looking at other opportunities where VR may assist interventions into areas which may be a function of early trauma and neglect. Could VR be employed as a preventative measure in children’s social care? What is the potential for working with birth families, care professionals, foster carers as well as children and young people involved with the criminal justice system?  We are confident that the answers lie in extensive research and collaboration with progressive local authorities, charities, academics, educators and law enforcement. We are keen to work with any individuals or organisations who see the potential for technology and skilled practise to deliver better outcomes for children in care. VR takes us a big step towards that ambition.

If you would like to find out more about how our products and services can help you with social work training and practice please contact