Thursday, April 24, 2014

Creating a Vibrant Life: Lessons from Adversity

How can we learn to uncover hidden opportunities in life’s darkest moments and then journey toward a better quality of life?

2014 Mental Health Symposium, April 26, 2014, 4:00 pm SLT/PDT
The Sojourner Auditorium in Second Life®

Virtual Ability is pleased to welcome Colleen Crary (Anya Ibor in Second Life®), founder and executive director of the nonprofit Fearless Nation, to the 2014 Mental Health Symposium, held at The Sojourner Auditorium in Second Life®.

Fearless Nation educates, supports, and advocates for the rights of people with psychological trauma and has worked closely with the military population and law enforcement across the United States. Ms. Crary is currently a doctoral candidate in psychology at Walden University. She has earned a Master’s in Forensic Psychology from the prestigious Chicago School, and holds a bachelor’s degree in graphic design.

In her presentation, entitled “Creating a Vibrant Life: Lessons from Adversity,” Ms. Crary will explore the reality that virtual life is an extension of real life, with challenges existing in both. She will discuss new research on trauma that shows how we can enhance our current existence by learning from those who have triumphed over adversity.  Ms. Crary will show how one can uncover hidden opportunities in life’s darkest moments.

Visit The Sojourner Auditorium in Second Life®.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Virtual Worlds, Psychological Health and Veterans

How can a healing space created in a virtual world strengthen the psychological health of returning veterans?

2014 Mental Health Symposium, April 26, 2014, 2:30 pm SLT/PDT
The Sojourner Auditorium in Second Life®

Virtual Ability welcomes Dr. Jacquelyn Ford Morie, Ph.D., founder and chief scientist at All These Worlds, LLC, to the 2014 Mental Health Symposium, held at The Sojourner Auditorium in Second Life®.

With degrees in both art and computer science, Dr. Morie has twenty-five years of experience in developing innovative techniques for rich virtual reality (VR) environments. During her tenure as a Senior Research Scientist at the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies where she created novel VR tele-healthcare activities using her deep understanding of art, computer animation and human behavior to enhance patient engagement. Dr. Morie also has worked in the animation and special effects industries and prior to that, worked at the University of Southern Florida’s Institute for Simulation and Training, where she developed techniques to make VR environments more immersive and emotionally evocative.

Dr. Morie also researches the effects avatars have on the people who use them. Her recently formed company, All These Worlds, LLC serves clients such as NASA and the Army Medical Command at Fort Sam Houston.

In her presentation entitled “A Healing Space built with Veterans in Mind: Virtual Worlds and Psychological Health,” Dr. Morie will discuss how virtual worlds can benefit healing, support and physical and psychological health. 

Between 2009 and 2013, All These Worlds, LLC built four regions in Second Life® to support a healing environment for veterans returning from the recent US conflicts in the mid-East.  As part of the research, the region design included activities to help with stress relief, including a running path that one runs with their avatar via a deep even-breathing technique, and a fully developed series of mindfulness classes. The researchers are halfway through a longitudinal study on the effectiveness of the in-world mindfulness, and a short study confirmed the effectiveness of the running activity for relaxation. These Second Life® regions are known as Chicoma Island and can be visited as part of Dr. Morie’s presentation. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Counseling, Quality of Life, and Virtual Worlds

What’s the role of counseling in quality of life and how are counselors exploring virtual service delivery?

2014 Mental Health Symposium, April 26, 2014, 1:00 pm SLT/PDT

The Sojourner Auditorium in Second Life®

Avatar of Dr. Christine Karper: "Storm"

Virtual Ability welcomes Dr. Christine Karper and Michelle Stone, members of the American Counseling Association’s Cyber Task Force to the 2014 Mental Health Symposium held in The Sojourner Auditorium in Second Life®. Their two-part presentation will discuss how counseling impacts quality of life for people with and without diagnosed mental illness in an interactive presentation that explores utilization of virtual world service delivery for counseling supports. With long-time experience in virtual worlds, the presenters will carefully consider both potentials and cautions of professional service delivery within a virtual environment.

Dr. Christine Karper, Ph.D., known as Storm in Second Life®, will discuss a paradigm shift in the role of the counselor that focuses on quality of life over alleviation of symptoms. She will discuss treatment strategies for overall well-being, as well as interventions aimed at assisting individuals to have a better quality of life.

Dr. Karper obtained her master’s in mental health counseling and her doctorate in counselor education and supervision from the University of Central Florida. She has been serving the Central Florida Community as a clinician and a counselor educator for over ten years.

As a clinician, Dr. Karper has developed a specialty area in depression and anxiety disorders and utilizes cognitive-behavioral therapy, creative arts therapy and adventure-based counseling. She also enjoys assisting individuals in stress management and in developing means of coping with diverse life challenges by incorporating alternative healing modalities and mind-body-spirit approaches.  She has presented both nationally and internationally and has published articles in several journals in counseling, psychology and technology.

Currently, Dr. Karper serves as the Area Chair for Psychology Programs at the University of Phoenix, Central Florida Campus. She teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in counseling, psychology and the health sciences and integrates blended formats, fully online and face to face. She also works in program development and faculty development and is a subject matter expert in curriculum development. Her research interests involve the use of technology in the classroom, the use of social media as a diagnostic tool in counseling, and the impact of virtual worlds in counseling.

Ms. Michelle D. Stone’s portion of the session will focus on the ethical use of virtual worlds in service delivery.

Ms. Stone has extensive experience working with a variety of populations within the context of a community-based non-profit setting. She is currently the Family Services Director of Lake Wales Care Center in Florida. Her educational background merges the two fields of social work and psychology and it is in this shared space that her interest in computer-mediated human interaction has emerged.

As a resident of over five years in the virtual world of Second Life®, Ms. Stone has viewed firsthand the benefits and challenges of professional service delivery in a virtual environment. Her practical experience fueled her research and subsequent professional presentations regarding the use of virtual worlds and social media for the purposes of assisting those in need.

Visit The Sojourner Auditorium in Second Life®.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Virtual Ability on's "Talk! with Marie" Program

Join Gentle Heron and Marie on Talk! with Marie for this half-hour informative broadcast on

Gentle Heron, Founder of Virtual Ability, Inc. joins Marie in this energetic discussion about Virtual Ability's mission, activities, and upcoming professional symposium on April 26, 2014 in Second Life®. 

Addiction and becoming "weller than well"

How can people serious about addiction recovery become “weller than well?”

2014 Mental Health Symposium, April 26, 2014, 11:30 am SLT/PDT

The Sojourner Auditorium in Second Life®

Virtual Ability welcomes Dick Dillon, CEO of Innovaision, LLC. His alter-ego, avatar Coughran Mayo, has spent more than seven years actively involved in Second Life®, working for the NonProfit Commons initiative and building and hosting the Preferred Family HC region. He has made numerous presentations and been interviewed on Metanomics,  Rockcliffe University's "Inside The Avatar Studio" program and other inworld news and issues programs.

Mr. Dillon has been in the mental health field for over 30 years in a variety of clinical, management and administrative positions. He was the co-founder of the Substance Abuse Services Department of a large Missouri hospital and developed that project to be one of the premier medically-based programs in a multi-state area.  He recently left his position as Senior VP of Planning and Development for Preferred Family Healthcare to open his own consulting firm, Innovaision, LLC.

His firm is dedicated to helping nonprofits realize the potential of using virtual worlds and other technologies.  Innovaision, LLC assists behavioral health organizations to leverage their abilities using innovation and social and digital technologies.

In his presentation at this year’s Mental Health Symposium, “Super-Good: Why people serious about addiction recovery can become ‘weller than well,’” he will offer information and ideas on how addiction recovery can offer a “super-good” outcome. 

Several decades ago, a leading physician working in the addictions field asserted that people who diligently worked to recover from alcoholism or other drug addictions often turned out to be 'weller than well'. He noted that the recovery plan for most addictions addresses not just the disease, but the mind, the body, the spirit and even the social interactions of the recovering individual. This holistic approach has some surprising and rewarding results. 

Please join us at The Sojourner Auditorium in Second Life® to find out more!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Well-being Among Persons at Risk of Psychosis: The Role of Self-Labeling, Shame, and Stigma Stress

How does labeling and stigma associated with a mental health diagnosis impact young people?

2014 Mental Health Symposium, April 26, 2014, 10:00 am SLT/PDT
The Sojourner Auditorium in Second Life®

Virtual Ability welcomes Dr. Nicolas Rüsch from the University of Ulm in Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany, to the 2014 Mental Health Symposium, held at The Sojourner Auditorium in Second Life®.

Dr. Rüsch is a consultant psychiatrist and Professor of Public Mental Health in the Department of Psychiatry II, University of Ulm, Germany. He received his clinical training in Freiburg, Germany, and Rome, Italy, and spent two years working with Prof. Patrick W. Corrigan on mental illness stigma research in Chicago. 

In his presentation, Dr. Rüsch will share insights from his recent research, which focuses on young people at risk of psychosis who may label themselves and may be labeled by others as mentally ill due to early signs of the disorder or due to interventions.
Until now, empirical data on the link between labeling, stigma and well-being in this group were lacking. Dr. Rüsch’s research assessed self-labeling, stigma variables, well-being and psychiatric symptoms among 172 young people at risk of psychosis in Switzerland. Results suggest that perceived public stigma, shame about having a mental illness and self-labeling are associated with increased stigma-related stress and with reduced well-being, independent of age, gender, psychiatric comorbidity and symptom levels. In addition to clinical early intervention programs, the research suggests a need for strategies to address the shame and stigma associated with at-risk states and early psychosis.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Employment Equality through Accommodation and Self-Advocacy

What do we need to know about employment equality and ADA accommodations when it comes to mental health?

2014 Mental Health Symposium, April 26, 2014, 8:30 am SLT/PDT
The Sojourner Auditorium in Second Life®

Join us at Virtual Ability’s third annual Mental Health Symposium for an introduction to reasonable accommodations in the workplace. Learn how to request and provide workplace changes to meet mental health and other disability-related needs. 

Teresa Goddard, a Senior Consultant from the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) at West Virginia University, will discuss workplace accommodations and methods for advocating for oneself and others using the protections afforded by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Ms. Goddard will explain the stages of the accommodation process and will provide tips for navigating important steps, including making or recognizing a request, exploring options, and obtaining medical documentation in support of requests.  Don’t miss this opportunity to learn about real life examples of employees who successfully requested workplace changes and employers who provided effective accommodations. 

As a Consultant on JAN’s motor team, Ms. Goddard fields questions from employees and employers regarding their rights and responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act and assists in identifying accommodation solutions for employees with disabilities. Her professional experience includes work as an Educational Speech-Language Pathologist and as an English as a Foreign Language instructor in Aichi Prefecture, Japan, where in addition to classroom teaching, she led continuing education workshops on collaborative instructional techniques and cross-cultural understanding.

Ms. Goddard holds a bachelor’s degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology and a master’s degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology from West Virginia University’s College of Human Resources and Education. She has earned 45 hours above the master’s level with elective course work in augmentative and alternative communication, behavior disorders, and reading. Her research interests include assistive technology and cross-cultural perspectives on disability services.

Insights from Research: Depression among Older Adults

What does emerging research tell us about depression among older adults?

2014 Mental Health Symposium, April 26, 2014, 7:00 am SLT/PDT
The Sojourner Auditorium in Second Life®

Hillary Bogner, MD, who is both a researcher and a practicing physician focusing on family medicine, will discuss current and emerging research about depression among older adults. She will consider identification, diagnosis, and management of this significant mental health issue. Her presentation leads off the 2014 Virtual Ability Mental Health Symposium, an event drawing researchers, practitioners, consumers, and professionals from around the world. The Symposium is held at The Sojourner Auditorium in Second Life®.

How might healthcare processes be redesigned to reflect the specific principles identified in this research? How might changes in practice have significant impact at the patient, clinician, and systemic levels? This presentation will also explore how biopsycho-ecology can illuminate our understanding of depression and healthcare. 

Dr. Bogner currently serves as an Associate Professor of Family Medicine and Community Health and as an Associate Professor of Epidemiology in Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. She is also a Fellow in the American Academy of Family Physicians. Her experiences and expertise as a clinician, researcher, and educator, as well as her success as a peer-reviewed published researcher, offer a rich background for her presentation.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Virtual World Conference Supports Quality of Life in Mental Health

Virtual Ability, Inc. announces the third annual Mental Health Symposium to be held Saturday, April 26th, 7:00 am PDT/SLT to 5:00 pm PDT/SLT in Second Life®. The theme of this year’s conference is “Quality of Life.”

The World Health Organization defines quality of life as an individual’s “perception of their position in life in the context of the culture and value systems in which they live and in relation to their goals, standards and concerns.”

Quality of life is important to us all, but may be more difficult to attain for those with mental health issues. Overall quality of life is affected by psychological state, physical health, level of independence, social relationships, personal values and beliefs, and the relationship of all of these to the person’s environment.

Symposium presentations include (in alphabetical order):
·         Hillary Bogner, MD, University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine, will offer insights from her research on depression among older adults.
·         Colleen Crary, Executive Director of Fearless Nation, Inc., will share lessons from adversity for creating a vibrant life.
·         Dick Dillon, CEO of Innovaision, LLC, shares surprising information about why some recovering addicts become “weller than well.”
·         Teresa Goddard, Senior Consultant with the Job Accommodation Network, will inform us about attaining employment equality through accommodation and self-advocacy.
·         Dr. Christine Karper and Michelle Stone, members of the American Counseling Association’s Cyber Task Force, will talk about the role of counseling and virtual service delivery.
·         Dr. Jacquelyn Ford Morie, University of Southern California, will describe the use of virtual worlds as healing spaces for veterans.
·         Dr. Nicolas Rüsch, of the University of Ulm, Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany, will explain the results of his research on well-being among persons at risk of psychosis, focusing particularly on shame and stigma.

Alice Krueger, president of Virtual Ability, Inc., stated: “I am pleased to see an increasing focus on quality of life in mental health care in recent years, since many persons with mental health diagnoses struggle with these issues. The Symposium’s international presenters are acknowledged experts in their fields. I will be interested to hear what they have to say on these important topics. Please join us on April 26 to learn more from a variety of exciting speakers!” 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Schedule Now Available: Apr. 26 Virtual Ability 2014 Mental Health Symposium

Virtual Ability, Inc. is honored to welcome the following presenters for its 2014 Mental Health Symposium, which will be held April 26, 2014 at The Sojourner Auditorium on Virtual Ability Island in Second Life®.

To receive automatic updates to this blog, please feel free to "Follow by email" at the right. Or, follow us on Twitter @virtualability , before, during and after this exciting symposium.

Times shown are PDT (SLT).

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Real Life, Virtual Life: Real Challenges and Real Opportunities

It is a frequently portrayed stereotype: a rather sad loner in the basement with headphones and a computer, living a virtual life in a virtual world because “real life” is just too hard.

Colleen Crary, M.A. (Anya Ibor in Second Life®) is the executive director and founder of the nonprofit Fearless Nation. She will address mental health and quality of life in virtual worlds and beyond at the upcoming April 26, 2014 Mental Health Symposium. The Symposium is sponsored by Virtual Ability, Inc., and will bring together researchers, educators, clinicians, and experts representing a variety of backgrounds.

Ms. Crary will bring her expertise and experience in educating, supporting, and advocating for the rights of people who have experienced psychological trauma to her presentation “Creating a Vibrant Life: Lessons from Adversity.”  For her, and for so many, virtual worlds offer an extension of our real life, not an alternative. People can improve the quality of their current existence in any world by learning from those who have triumphed over adversity.

“People can enhance their lives, create a ‘vibrant life,’ by embracing opportunities found in life’s adversity,” she notes.  We can, in both real life and virtual life, uncover “hidden opportunities in life’s darkest moments, and start the journey from ‘bitter’ to ‘better.’”

“New research shows some surprising and very positive directions in quality of life enhancement,” Ms. Crary explains. Even people who have been traumatized are able to turn their lives around “to embrace a more creative and satisfying existence, free of victim-hood and self-pity.”

Ms. Crary, a doctoral candidate in Psychology at Walden University, has her Masters in Forensic Psychology from the prestigious Chicago School. She has brought her expertise in psychological trauma and dealing with adversity to her work with the military and law enforcement communities. She is a long-time participant in virtual worlds, and understands how connecting with people virtually can bring profound meaning to life.

Virtual Ability is pleased to welcome Colleen Crary, and a number of other experts and researchers, to the 2014 Mental Health Symposium. The Symposium will be held in Second Life®.

This international professional conference offers a variety of opportunities for learning and for personal and professional growth. It is free, ADA accessible, and open to the public.

Please, consider joining us on April 26, 2014 to learn about:
  •    Insights from Research: Depression among Older Adults
  •    Employment Equality Through Accommodation and Self-Advocacy
  •    Well-being Among Persons at Risk of Psychosis: The Role of Self-Labeling, Shame, and Stigma Stress
  •    Super-good: Why People Serious About Addiction Recovery can become “Weller than Well”
  •    The Role of Counseling in Quality of Life and How Counselors are Exploring Virtual Service Delivery
  •    A Healing Space Built with Veterans in Mind: Virtual Worlds and Psychological Health
  •    Creating a Vibrant Life: Lessons from Adversity

Sessions start at 7 am PDT and will be held at The Sojourner Auditorium on Virtual Ability Island Second Life®.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Virtual Ability Artists Featured in International Art Event at the University of Western Australia

"Sky Populus"- Wally
This month, several  members of the Virtual Ability community in Second Life® were celebrated for their artistic contribution to The Freedom Project, a 2d/3d art and film exhibit hosted by the University of Western Australia. This unique participatory event is sponsored by the University, Virtual Ability, and the Centre for ME/CFS and Other Invisible Illnesses. 

Nearly forty artists and film makers from all over the world who self-identify as having a disability or a chronic illness created amazing works of art or films/machinima on the theme of “Freedom,” showing how virtual worlds have in some way helped them or those around them.

Their original works reflect profound metaphors and symbols of universal impact, and clearly express the power of virtual worlds for fostering self-growth, deepening understanding, creating community, and helping people go beyond the difficulties and challenges of life. 

Virtual Ability community participants:

"Speechless Freedom" (detail)- i. Silverweb
Alysabelle shares an authored piece that highlights the powerful interpersonal inspirations of discovering community in Second Life®. iSkye Silverweb’s work is an engaging and potent three-dimensional multi-media entry entitled “Speechless Freedom.”  

Megadeus’s piece, “Mental Prison,” portrays emerging and hopeful self-awareness, and Ronin1 Shippe shares four colorful abstracts with much symbolism.

Roxie Marten’s “Gaze Upon the World” is an interactive 3D work, inviting the viewer to direct participation in experiencing freedom’s impact on life. Slatan Dryke’s “Yonder” is also three dimensional, and seems to draw viewers into dialogue with the core of human essence, revealing hidden ability and talent.
"Lotus of Enlightenment"- T. Evermore
In her work “Lotus of Enlightenment,” Tarquin Evermore uses the symbolic lotus flower to integrate and share insights on life, suffering, and beauty. Barbie Alchemi and Fran Serenade touch on similar themes in their collaborative work with Draxtor Despres:  a moving film/machinima entitled “We Can Learn & Grow & Heal Together.” Barbie and Fran, as well as Brenda Brodie, join with several other artists in an amazing multi-media collaborative piece “ParkArt Collaborative,” which extends across several inworld locations. 

Wally (Landscapewallpiece) shares his work “Sky Populus”, a two dimensional collage-based work integrating “the cast-away, the used, and the overlooked” into a powerful, integrating composition with energy and strength. Mathilde Vhargon’s work “Dancing with Impediments” captures movement and feeling. 

Each of these original works, along with the works of others in the exhibit, connects deeply through image, color, theme and meaning.  They will be included in a printed book, published through the University of Western Australia. The book will feature the art from the project.

In his book No Man is an Island, poet, philosopher, social activist, and scholar Thomas Merton noted that, “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” As you explore the rich experience of The Freedom Project, you’ll no doubt agree. You’ll probably find a part of yourself expressed there, in the colors, shapes, words, images, and symbols of these artists’ profound articulations of freedom.

To visit the exhibit, teleport to The Freedom Project in Second Life®.  Visit The Freedom Project’s website for additional information on this exhibit and the artists and sponsors. Alice Krueger (Gentle Heron) from Virtual Ability, Inc., will also speak on a panel about The Freedom Project exhibit at the upcoming Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education (VWBPE) conference.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Virtual worlds: a place for immersive learning

In a typical week, Virtual Ability, Inc. offers its members and others workshops, trainings, tours, discussion groups, and activities. All take place in the virtual world of Second Life®. Members might also participate in discussions, focus groups, research gatherings, and support groups. Many of these are hosted or sponsored by other organizations, nonprofits, or individuals within the virtual world of Second Life®. By recognizing and harnessing the value of virtual worlds for immersive, three-dimensional, multi-sensory, participative learning, Virtual Ability, Inc. joins many others in expanding education’s boundaries.

April 9-12, 2014, in both Second Life® and OSGrid®, you can login and participate in a free, international professional conference called “Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education” (VWBPE). This is an open conference, organized by educators, for educators, to focus on learning innovations, collaborations, best practices, and evolving educational design in immersive environments. Last year, Virtual Ability’s President, Alice Krueger (Gentle Heron) was the keynote speaker for VWBPE. This year, Virtual Ability will be involved as well, both in a panel discussion and by providing transcription services.

According to their website, “Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education is a meaningful way for presenters to share their research and experience about the rich learning systems in virtual worlds and games.” Conference proceedings are published as the Journal of Virtual Studies by Rockcliffe University Consortium.  The conference is huge, with more than 2000 attendees representing 90 countries participating in 150-200 online presentations. You can take in sessions on theoretical research, application of best practices, virtual world tours, hands-on workshops, discussion panels, machinima presentations, and poster exhibits. The conference is open to all.

Moreover, for the three weeks after the conference, you can also join a “MOOC” or Massively Open Online Course that takes a look at a variety of immersive environments.

The theme for this year’s VWBPE is “Connections,” and according to the website at , the conference will “focus on how immersive environments have extended the reach of educators to imagine a world without boundaries.” Why not consider spending some learning time in Second Life® or OSGrid® at VWBPE? Many of us from Virtual Ability, Inc. will be there!