Lisa has joined us today to talk about Audaz, a new self-help VR software that employs the use of cognitive behavioral therapy to teach users about anxiety and help them learn methods to overcome their own anxiety. She gives us a simple breakdown of how this works, how Audaz takes a user through an anxiety-inducing situation step by step and rewards them for each small successful action. Lisa also gives us her view on how you can improve your relationship with technology, using methods such as disconnecting from social media where you can, limiting notifications on your devices, and identifying what apps and activities are useful and add to your life and those that are more distracting, time-wasting activities.
We talk more broadly about anxiety as a growing issue and how social media use leads to anxiety and other mental health issues, especially in younger children and teens, by giving them certain expectations on how they should be feeling and living. We also look at how you can be unaware of your own anxiety, assuming that your normal response to a situation is just how most people would respond, and how Audaz can give you some information and education in order to better understand the nature of anxiety.
In this episode, you will hear:
- What is Audaz
- How CBT can help you manage anxiety
- Understanding anxiety as a normal part of life
- Major causes of mental health issues today
- How Audaz can give you a better understanding of yourself
Lisa Valtierra, CEO, is a leading cross-cultural marketing and advocacy expert in the pharmaceutical and healthcare fields. She’s an award-winning patient advocate and marketer who can inspire creative and business teams to develop and implement award-winning marketing efforts with an acute awareness of cultural sensitivities within the Latino community and beyond. Her passion for health equity bolsters her background in chronic disease advocacy.
Connect with Lisa Valtierra:
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Lisa Valtierra 0:00
What we should be telling people is, I want you to be fulfilled, I want you to have purpose. Because when we focus on those things, we can handle the range of emotions that we may have throughout the day much more easily.
Welcome to the healthier tech podcast, the show about building a healthier relationship with modern technology. Now, here are your hosts, R blank and Stephanie Warner.
R Blank 0:27
So in this interview with Lisa Valterra, we’re going to get into some really interesting uses of virtual reality, to treat anxiety. And she shares I mean, the all interview I think is great. But she shares her one tip, if she had to pick one thing that everyone could start doing right away, that would make a really big impact on their personal experience with anxiety. Yeah, and just Just to add, I, this is a brilliant interview, and I really can’t wait for everyone to hear it. What she’s doing is is just brilliant. And it’s going to help a lot of people. It’s a big service. And it’s the first time I’ve I’ve personally seen a use case for VR, that I think is going to actually be really helpful for everybody. So I’m so excited. Let’s get into it. Excellent.
Lisa, Val Tierra is a leading cross cultural marketing and advocacy expert in the pharmaceutical and healthcare fields. We will unpack that during today’s podcast. She’s an award winning patient advocate and marketer, Lisa and a team of experts are developing a new product called outdoes, which is a virtual self help to manage anxiety. Our das provides people the skills to better manage anxiety using virtual reality and cognitive behavioural therapy principles, which we’ll also talk about. welcome Lisa to the healthier tech podcast.
Lisa Valtierra 1:55
Hi, are Hi, Stephanie. Thank you. It’s terrific to be here.
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Stephanie Warner 1:58
Great to have you.
R Blank 1:59
Yeah, thank you for making the time. So just to get right into it. I’m wondering if healthcare has been sort of a lifelong endeavour for you, or what at what point along the way you got into it, maybe you can talk a little bit about your, your own journey into into healthcare.
Lisa Valtierra 2:16
So, you know, when I look back at my career, and even before that, in high school, I worked at a pharmacy not realising that I would be touching health care the rest of my life. And then in college, I worked at a huge corporation that ran hospitals all over the world. And then when I got out of college, you know, I got a job in sales, but then I got into advocating for people living with HIV. And that’s an area where I saw huge disparities. So people of colour are being left out of the conversation altogether. And that starts with clinical trials all the way to marketing. So that ended up leading me to a job at two major pharmaceutical companies. So I have over 20 years of experience in pharmaceuticals. And throughout each juncture, even working at UCLA for a little while, when they’re at their HIV clinic. All these disparities kept popping up whether it was in mental health care, physical health care, HIV across the board, I would see these disparities. And so that has lit a fire in me from way back then when I used to advocate for people with HIV, that I realised that this is an ongoing problem. There are no easy fixes. But it has to be addressed, you know, everywhere we can.
R Blank 3:33
So when I when I hear your personal story, I think I’m starting to see what the answer to my next question is going to be. But when I read your bio, and I saw the dual interests in both patient advocacy and marketing, I thought well, that that’s a weird combination. But obviously, yeah, so can you talk about how those two focuses kind of relate to each other?
Lisa Valtierra 3:58
Sure. So in my current you work in marketing, it’s always informed by my advocate brain. So everything I do, and my colleagues do, we always think, how is this going to affect the end user, you know, meaning the patient or the health care consumer? What do we need to do to make it more accessible, more understandable, more actionable, because those are actually the three tenets for health literacy. And when we look at especially communities of colour that tend to have lower health literacy because no one’s ever talked to them on a regular basis, we need to augment that we need to make things easier for people it’s really that simple. Make it easy for them to access understand and act upon.
R Blank 4:43
That’s, that’s really interesting. So now the project you’re working on is called out as Yes. So can you let’s just start with the basics. What is it?
Lisa Valtierra 4:54
Sure so our does is an idea I came up with several years ago. One of my best friend’s is a mental health care professional. She treats people with severe anxiety disorders. She’s always told me about her work. And she uses cognitive behavioural therapy to treat her patients. One day I was at this conference talking about virtual reality gaming and the entertainment industry. And I thought, wow, that technology, VR technology is amazing. And I couldn’t help thinking I wonder if it would work for what Shana does. I called her that night. And I said, Hey, Shana, could we do this? And she said, absolutely. So what our does is, is a virtual reality programme, that teaches people the skills to manage their anxiety, because Cognitive Behavioural Therapy skills are actually very simple and very basic. Anybody can learn them, you don’t have to see a therapist to learn them. You don’t even have to have an anxiety disorder, to access them and to use these skills. So why not make them available easily on demand privately, inexpensively for anybody to use in both English and Spanish?
R Blank 5:59
So I’m not hardly an expert, although apparently, according to you, I don’t need to be but I’m hardly an expert in CB, T. But it actually, I was just listening to an old episode of Conan O’Brien podcast. And he talks about specifically how it has been very helpful for him in his how he has addressed his own personal anxiety in his life. Can you talk a little about because like I say, I’m familiar with CBT. But I don’t know the details. How is it that you’re using this technique to help address I mean, anxieties, and we’ll talk about this, but it’s a really serious and growing problem. So how are you using this technique?
Lisa Valtierra 6:46
So what we’re doing is we’re creating scenarios in this VR environment. So imagine this in VR, you’re texting with a buddy, and they’ve invited you to a party. Now, if you have social anxiety, this is not going to be fun, right? But you know, that as a friend, you need to go to a party, because that’s the social contract we have with each other. So you also want to keep your word to your friends. And now you guys decide, am I going to the party or not, there’s a series of texts, you decide, yes, you’re going to the party. Now the first step for somebody with social anxiety is walking through that door. So in our exercise, they’re standing on the porch of a house, they’re hearing all these party sounds behind the door, glasses clinking people talking loud house music, they were expecting a small gathering. So you can see how now we’re ramping up this level of anxiety. And then if they walk through the door, they get the reward? Hey, you did it. That’s all it takes little baby steps. And then the next module, they come back, they can either repeat the first one. But the next set is you’re in the party. Now you have to talk to people you don’t know, wow, that can be a very anxiety producing for a lot of people. If they do that, they get the reward. They also get a little bit of education on anxiety at the end of each module, because we want them to really understand why they’re doing this. So CBT really is making people practice that which they’re afraid of.
R Blank 8:20
Yeah, and how in depth are we talking? When because when I hear the word VR, you know, I think of like Oculus headsets and so forth. Like, what, what kind of hardware do people need to experience this?
Lisa Valtierra 8:31
Perfect, we’re developing this for Oculus, but we’re also making it available for people with a smartphone and Cardboard headset.
R Blank 8:40
Okay, great. So okay, like, what Google Cardboard or whatever?
Lisa Valtierra 8:44
Yep. 10 bucks.
R Blank 8:47
So. So obviously, you see anxiety as a sufficiently prevalent problem, that you’re building a business plan on addressing it? Do you have thoughts based on your experience, you know why this is becoming such a big problem?
Lisa Valtierra 9:05
So I think there are so many factors to this, that it’s hard to be pithy and say, Oh, it’s because of this. First of all, the younger generation, this generation Z is having an outsized prevalence of anxiety. So for instance, boomers, 70% have good mental health care, mental health. When you get to Gen Z, only 45% say they have good mental health. That means 65% or 55%. Don’t. That is crazy, right? That’s not okay. And when you think about it, there’s a lot of data to show us that if a person has a mental health issue before they’re 25, they’re going to have one probably for the rest of their lives. So we can prevent that from happening, their chances of having good mental health for the rest of their lives. increases dramatically.
R Blank 10:01
So do you see a role in our Daz in preventative care?
Lisa Valtierra 10:06
Yes. So even though we’re building this for people 18 and over, and really the groups that we’re looking at are between 18 to 3033. But eventually, we will develop modules for children, and for their parents to teach them how to build more resilient kids. Because I think another part of the problem here is that our society has put so much pressure on these kids to be good at sports, to be good at music, to be good at academics, to be pretty are good looking. And who can do all of that?
R Blank 10:39
I mean, other than me, of course, right, right.
Lisa Valtierra 10:46
Go ahead, Stephanie.
Stephanie Warner 10:47
Yeah, well, you bring up a really good point, there’s so much pressure on young people. And I kind of want to dig in a little bit more on that kind of social pressure. Do you see the use of or where do you see if if any of the use of and prevalence of technology being part of that pressure point,
Lisa Valtierra 11:09
agreed. So pew Institute and Pew Research and the lancet have just come out with some data showing that especially for Instagram, it increases body image issues for young women. And even though people may feel more connected by using their social media, it also leads to more isolation. So there’s this dichotomy of they may feel connected, but I don’t think and I don’t have any data on this, but I don’t think that connection is deep. So I was just talking with somebody yesterday about the value of girlfriends, and how we all hopefully have at least one person who knows everything about us, with no judgement, you know, they’re, they’re there for us. So I’ve got a few girlfriends that know everything, and I can call in a pinch, or when I need something and say, Hey, I’m having, you know, I need a sounding board, we should all have that. So with social media, you can’t really do that, because it could easily be screenshot. And as we see in cyber bullying, I mean, there, it’s not a safe place to be you. And with all these images, people are posting their best nanosecond, when throughout the day, we should all be experiencing all of our emotions. So anxiety included, anxiety is also normal. And these kids don’t know that. They think that they’re supposed to be happy all the time. Well, what does that mean?
Stephanie Warner 12:34
Lisa Valtierra 12:36
I mean, because what they don’t understand is that what a lot of people don’t understand, not just younger people, is that you can be happy and sad or joyful and annoyed all at the same time.
R Blank 12:48
So our interactions with social platforms, like what you’re describing are those scenarios that are covered in outdoes.
Lisa Valtierra 12:57
We’re going to not necessarily take that head on, because it’s, I haven’t even thought about how that would work. But we’re we’re going to be tackling things like social anxiety. So going to a party asking people some asking somebody out on a date. Apparently people have trouble doing that, answering texts, but I have two other advisors on the team. And they all treat people with anxiety and specifically younger people. And they said that some of their patients get so caught up in how do I answer this text. They’re paralysed with fear of doing the wrong thing. And what we want to teach them is that go ahead and do the wrong thing. Nothing’s going to happen. And even if it does, you’re going to survive. So here’s an interesting exercise that I’ve gone through myself and I don’t suffer from anxiety. I’m very, very fortunate. So why am I doing this? You may be asking. But it’s because I see how it gets people stuck. Right? Breaks my heart. They shouldn’t be stuck for these things. So when, let’s say when I went hang gliding? My not normal thing to do. Yes, anxiety producing, but my questions I asked myself are what’s the worst thing that can happen? Okay, for hanggliding? I could not fair enough. But then if I do, all my problems will be solved.
Stephanie Warner 14:16
I’m expecting that.
Lisa Valtierra 14:23
Right. I mean,
R Blank 14:25
that’s a CBT framing of
Lisa Valtierra 14:30
the situation. So okay, now if I don’t die, then what? Okay, I could maybe sprained my ankle when I land. I’ve had a sprained ankle before I’ll survive. Right? And so I run myself, I basically it’s what’s called completing the story. Or let’s take social anxiety. I’ve been to parties where I didn’t know anybody before, because the person who invited me hadn’t gotten there yet. I’m going in. So what’s the worst that can happen? People don’t know me. Okay, that happens when I walk out Don’t go to the grocery store. Nobody knows me. So who cares? I could say the wrong thing Been there done that we’ve all been embarrassed before. And we’ve survived. And you can even make a joke out of it. Oh, I said the wrong thing. I’m so sorry. You no big deal. So it’s telling myself the whole story of what what can happen if, if something goes wrong. Or I trip I was at a party where I spilled some champagne on my dress. Oh, well, the picture was taken. It lives on the internet. Who cares? No one has ever said, hey, at least I saw that spot on your dress. So go ahead.
R Blank 15:38
No, yeah, no, I was. I was just wondering where in the journey without as are you at this moment?
Lisa Valtierra 15:43
So we have a demo. But we are looking for beta testers so that we can when we get funded to actually build the first full module, we want their feedback we’ve had so
R Blank 15:56
yeah, so where can people become a, if they’re interested, become a beta tester,
Lisa Valtierra 16:01
they can log on to our daz.me A UD AZ dot M E, and there’s a form they can fill out and they will be added to the list.
R Blank 16:12
And we’ll have that link in the show notes. So I’m wondering how it is that you view your because you were talking about the let’s say the the negative outcomes or results that you’re seeing, both in research and in conversations with people of their relationships with platforms like Instagram, and at the same time, you’re looking to technology as a solution or a path to a potential solution for this this issue? How do you on a personal level? How how do you view your personal relationship with technology? What role does it play in your life?
Lisa Valtierra 16:49
So you know, like, everyone, I’m the typical person who sits in front of the TV, and I’m also texting with friends or scrolling shopping, whatever on line is at the same time. However, I don’t really go on social media. I’ll go on one particular platform to make sure my friends are okay, make sure their parents are okay, because we’re in that age group where parents are becoming ill. But I don’t post about my life, no one wants to see what I have for breakfast. Cares. And I used to be, you know, a lot more active on social media. But I realised that it did not add to my life. It didn’t add friends to my life, because I have the same friends I’ve had for the past 25 2015 years. So and then it was a time suck, I’d get on and suddenly an hour and a half is gone. Like oh boy, I’m wasting time here. So my relationship with technology is I use it as a tool because technology in and of itself is neutral. It all depends on how we use it. And I really limit myself and I’ve been practising I know this is radical, but I go grocery shopping without my phone. Oh, no. But I realise what’s gonna happen? Nothing. What do
R Blank 18:10
you don’t write your shopping list? You don’t write your shopping list on your phone, then?
Lisa Valtierra 18:13
Nope. I wrote pad and paper. I love my little paper lists.
R Blank 18:21
So, so for people who are listening, who are dealing with anxiety, and as we just talked about that’s that’s a lot of people. What is one piece of advice that you can give people based on the work that you’re doing? Where they can, I actually I don’t even know if as a starting point, you want to help them kind of realise the scope of what they’re experiencing or to help reduce their pain and symptoms. But what is one thing that you would recommend, other than signing up for your beta?
Lisa Valtierra 18:53
Yeah. Really limiting the time I mean, I’ve even deleted one very popular app from my phone. Because it prevents me from getting all those notifications. So I would you know, silence the note of if you can’t do anything else, silence the notifications. Because they are and also just from a brain perspective. Every time you’re working on something and you get distracted. It takes, you know, several least 20 seconds or more Some studies show longer to get refocused.
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R Blank 19:30
Yeah, we just covered one study that was talking about 15 it impacts you for 15 minutes following the notification. Yeah, so yeah, my phone is always in Do Not Disturb. I have to manually scan and I don’t have. So I haven’t had social media. I mean, my businesses do but I personally don’t use social media not since 2015. So it’s been a it’s been a while and never really I mean, I guess when COVID first hit, and I was trapped in an apartment I had a little bit never got back on Facebook for like a week or two. But that was it.
Lisa Valtierra 20:04
Right? Yeah. Yeah. So that would be my biggest advice. And of course, I’ve got tonnes of advice for people.
Stephanie Warner 20:11
I think that’s great. I think that’s really great advice, limiting usage and, and really exploring, you know, what, what, which platforms are which uses make you, like, help you in life and make you feel better, versus what may be is a time suck or just doesn’t make feel good?
Lisa Valtierra 20:29
Right? Like the selfies Oh, my goodness.
Stephanie Warner 20:34
I’d rather see your lunch I’m sick of seeing. So
Lisa Valtierra 20:38
the bird that you saw on your walk, or the flower that you pass by that is stunningly beautiful, or the sunset that you’re ignoring. And just look around? Because there are some VML my why have a daily walk and I’ve got fat squirrel, one fat squirrel twos. Squirrel, that I see. I’ve been saying, hey, fat squirrel makes me happy. It’s silly. I know. But it’s, it’s those kind. Let’s get back to those kinds of things. If you have to post a photo look around you.
Stephanie Warner 21:11
Love that. Love it.
R Blank 21:14
So I have I have a question here. And it might seem like a really silly one. But I personally did not realise that I had anxiety until my mid 30s. And it wasn’t until even my 40s that I realised how much of my life it had it become a part of. And now think I don’t I don’t often, quote Conan O’Brien on this podcast. But going back to that same episode I was just telling you about where he talked about CBT. He didn’t realise that he had anxiety until his mid 30s. And again, for people without anxiety, it might seem ridiculous to how could you not know. But what I’m asking you the question I’m asking you is how can people know whether or not very good
Lisa Valtierra 21:58
question, great question, really good question. In fact, one of my team members, we were having a content meeting. And she says, Oh, when I go skiing, I make sure I go with a certain group of friends. Because going up that hill, makes me very worried and I start to sweat. And then when I get to the top, I have to take a little time and the therapist, my co founder was there. She’s like, um, that’s anxiety. She’s like it is. So I guess it’s so normal for you. You don’t know anything different? When would you name it? It’s like I have an allergy to melons. I didn’t know it until an adult because I’ve had it my whole life. And I’m telling my mom, oh, my throat scratches when I eat melons, and I don’t like and I thought it was universal. I’ve had everybody felt that way. She’s like, dummy. It’s an allergy. I’m like, Oh, thanks for saying with anxiety, if you’ve had this all your life, you think this is the way things are everybody feels this way in this situation. So why would you have a name for it. So part of the outdoes process is to start teaching people about what anxiety is. So they can start being aware of Oh, when this happens, I noticed my heart rate increases, or I get sweaty palms. That’s anxiety.
R Blank 23:06
So so there’s a, I don’t want to use the term diagnostic because I assume that’s a special word. But there’s some type of functionality that allows one to self diagnose without us.
Lisa Valtierra 23:20
Yeah, there’ll be given a list of symptoms, to kind of check of if you’ve kind of like, if you have three or more of these, you might be an anxious person doesn’t mean they have a disorder, though. Because what we have to remember is that anxiety is part of our normal, everyday expected range of emotions. Okay. And that’s what I another part that I think people don’t understand, again, getting back to this idea of I just want you to be happy. I really wish people would stop saying that, especially parents to children. Because the idea is that, if I’m not happy, therefore, something must be wrong with me. When nobody is happy 24/7 That’s just not nor not expected. And nor is it should it be that way. What we should be telling people is, I want you to be fulfilled, I want you to have purpose, because when we focus on those things, we can handle the range of emotions that we may have throughout the day much more easily. Because we know that they are expected they’re also transient. That feeling of anxiety, whatever however it expresses in people whether it’s sweaty palms, racing heart, feeling nauseous, feeling faint, some people throw up, but it’s also temporary. Right? You’re not gonna wait all the time. It comes up and then it’ll just go down all on its own. That’s what we’re teaching people is basically to endure the pain
R Blank 24:54
so, Lisa, this is I really enjoyed getting to meet you and also learning about how does where and or how can our listeners learn more about you and about out as
Lisa Valtierra 25:07
send a message, there is also a link in on the site to send us an email, and it’ll get to me and I’ll be happy to answer.
R Blank 25:14
Okay, so it’s outdoes.me. And just a quick question for everybody who’s listening. But in order to be a beta tester, do you need any special hardware?
Lisa Valtierra 25:24
No, you just need a smartphone and Google Glasses, you know, cardboard VR glasses, if you have an Oculus, that’s fine, too. We can send you the links on that. That’s it, because all smartphones now are VR capable.
R Blank 25:40
So Okay. All right, right.
Stephanie Warner 25:41
Before we wrap up, I just want to say personally, I think what you’re doing is absolutely brilliant. And I think that it’s going to help a lot of people. I think that social anxiety, especially when you’re young, it affects not only your life, personally, or young people’s lives personally, but it’s gonna affect them for their entire life. And I just think what you’re doing is is great, and just genius. It’s genius. It’s genius way to leverage technology, to help.
Lisa Valtierra 26:12
Thank you so much for saying that, you know, really helping people be themselves is, to me, the Holy Grail, because everyone should have access to these kinds of skills. They’re not magic. And the sooner we get people to realise that they can be themselves without repercussions. And even for those who do get made, yes, bullying happens, people will laugh at you, who cares. I want them to feel so secure in themselves that they can walk into that party or that job interview, or ask for that raise, knowing that they are 100% in their space.
Stephanie Warner 26:49
Love it. Beautiful. Thank you very much.
R Blank 26:52
Thank you very much for coming on the healthier tech podcast.
Lisa Valtierra 26:55
Absolutely. Hope to see you again.
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Transcribed by https://otter.ai