Caroline Easton — College of Health Sciences & Technology
Substance abuse and family violence are a combustible combination and this public health issue continues to escalate at the local, national and international level. Dr. Easton's clinical research supports a new approach that integrates addiction and aggression issues and treats the individual client, as opposed to generic group therapies administered by non-credentialed staff.
The one-size-fits-all approach has been used for 30 years or so, and it hasn't changed. Although larger generic therapies appear to be more cost effective through the front door, the ineffectiveness, high rates of re-offenses and high rates of relapse are more costly at the back door. Dr. Easton has been working with a multi-disciplinary team of faculty and students at RIT to utilize cyber technology, virtual reality, human visualization tools and developing avatar coaches (e.g., Al-Virt) to help treat cooccurring addiction and family violence. The use of the virtual tools and avatars is the way of the future. These adjunctive tools can be useful in patient care settings, are non-threatening, are realistic and can pose ‘real life scenarios and triggers' in an in-vivo fashion. This cyber and interactive platform allows us to further employ our treatment models to get even better treatment outcomes. Clients are encouraged to interact with virtual characters and are paired up with avatar coaches designed to help increase, reinforce and shape healthier coping skills. A cyber/avatar coach named “Al-Virt” is being developed to help patients learn healthy conflict resolution skills through these virtual role playing exercises. The avatar coach has a genuine and caring style that provides positive statements and gestures to reward healthy behavioral changes when a positive behavior occurs.
Dr. Easton notes that RIT is a true leader in the field regarding the cyber tools. RIT students and faculty are driving these therapeutic cyber, gaming and human visualization tools. This is the future and patient care settings are ready to embrace it.