Virtual reality at the service of mental health for Cognicorp+ Therapies

Emmanuella Michel, founder of Cognicorp+ Thérapies, wants to treat mental health problems through virtual reality. (Photo: Courtesy)

GUEST BLOG. † Innovate or die as Peter Drucker would say! Many articles and books abound in the same direction as him. Innovation is indeed essential for survival and we hear it all the time in business. For Emmanuella Michel, founder of Cognicorp+ Therapies, her burning desire to challenge the status quo and be innovative in helping people facing difficult social realities has guided every decision along her journey. Today she is completing her PhD in Educational Technology from Laval University and is fully engaged with her platform, Cogni XR Health. This platform aims to help mental health professionals take advantage of immersive technologies when treating their patients in psychological distress. She is also proud to be one of the 12 Canadian Entrepreneurs Finalists selected by SheEO World this year!

It all started with an active involvement in the community and a strong passion for development. When it came time to choose her university studies, she first thought about becoming a social worker, but decided to stop her choice on a certificate in intervention with young people. This was the beginning of a major exploration of our health and social services system. Two certificates and a master’s degree later, combined with three years of developing and coordinating various personal development programs for young women, she decided to sharpen her understanding of mental health issues. Very often, the young women who were counseled suffered from mental health problems that, without treatment, would not allow the programs to have their full impact. So it was time for her to dig into the question. This resulted in a job at the Douglas Institute and she admits it was quite a shock! Fifteen years ago, mental health was still very taboo in black communities. She still didn’t understand how important it was. In the years that followed, Emmanuella combined her achievements to continue serving the community by developing a myriad of tools, each as creative as the next and always a brilliant combination of learning and playing.

Focus on virtual reality

The year 2018 marks the beginning of his exploration of virtual reality! They wanted to make sure they were moving with the times and finding a way to turn their development programs into digital experiences. Selected to be one of 100 content developers worldwide to participate in the Oculus LaunchPad Boot Camp from Facebook she discovered the ins and outs of virtual reality and developed the Alpha version of Cogni XR. How can a VR headset help with mental health? In fact, very briefly, immersive technologies make it possible to simulate a universe in which the person living the experience is represented by an avatar. Thus, a wide range of situations can be simulated and useful for exposure therapy. For example, an agoraphobic person followed by a psychologist can be immersed in different fictional universes full of people to gradually learn to face their fear. All from the comfort of the psychologist’s office! It is a method that has been proven to treat anxiety, depression, cognitive behavioral disorders and many others.

After going through several local and international incubators and accelerators, Cogni XR Health now has a team of about 10 people. She actively seeks new clients with a mission focused on wellness or improving mental health. Aware that the purchase of virtual reality headsets can be quite expensive, Cogni XR Health also offers through its platform a video conferencing service adapted to remote therapies that integrates artificial intelligence to analyze facial expressions and monitor the evolution of the feelings of the detect the patient during the meeting. Emmanuella is always ready to develop new immersive experiences around wellness, as she recently did for the Conversations Noires event, hosted by the Montreal agency Never Was Average.

Apart from the ingenuity of his platform, it is his passion, his perseverance and his great accuracy that impressed me. For her, there is always a way to do better, do things differently, and refine her way of serving society. Judging by its modus operandi, Cogni XR Health will likely be the first in a large line of innovative tools to transform the mental health experience. To follow closely!

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