A car accident, a stress-inducing situation, a breakup… all events that can send people into a psychological tailspin. Failure to quickly ‘diffuse’ such a traumatic experiences can cause them to loom ever larger, even leading to behavioural disorders. And there’s the rub, because instead of swift treatment, patients find themselves at the back of a long queue. Now, three former psychology students have decided to do something about those queues.  Harnessing a combination of virtual reality, EMDR and machine learning, they want to make psychotherapy both more accessible and more affordable.

Rather than replacing conventional therapy, the innovation, they say, ‘seeks to improve the efficiency of psychiatric care. We need both kinds of care, but this is faster, available in multiple languages and personalised’.

Having developed a prototype with a grant from the Alumni Fund, the next step for the graduates will be to get their method scientifically validated so the application can be marketed and covered by health insurers. The grant, they say, provided a vital impetus to advance their concept and draw up a business plan. ‘Having someone else believe in your idea is really galvanising. It even inspired us to try for the Y-combinator. That provided not only a large amount of seed capital but also a chance to continue developing our concept in Silicon Valley. That was an invaluable experience on both a personal and a professional level’, says Christoph Lynen.

Initial responses to the application are resoundingly positive. Three-quarters of a 50-member test panel reported feeling better after a VR session. So what’s next? Refining the app based on user experiences, building a bigger data pool to test the app and informing and training end users. We are in discussion with the municipality of Maastricht to start a first pilot with war refugees.

The Psylaris team consists of:
Christoph Lynen, CTO (2012, MSc in Psychology: Cognitive Neuroscience)
Mike Verhiel, COO (2010, MSc in International Business: Management Change and Consultancy)
Yoeri Dassen, CEO (2010, MSc in Psychology: Work & Organisation)