The world of virtual reality (VR) has met mergers and acquisitions. 

BehaVR and OxfordVR announced Tuesday that they will merge to create a large VR delivery platform designed to support digital behavioral therapies.

BehaVR provides VR programs that aim to treat several behavioral and mental health issues, like anxiety regulation, pain management and addiction recovery. OxfordVR also operates in a similar vein, focusing on providing a “safe space” for people to experiment with new behaviors in the midst of “psychological difficulties.”

Combining the two under the BehaVR brand is meant to boost growth and provide more behavioral services to meet the growing demand for mental health care, the companies said.

“In bringing together two innovative virtual reality therapeutics teams, we are positioned to serve the widest range of patient populations possible at a time of intense need,” BehaVR founder and CEO Aaron Gani said in a statement.

The merger follows an initial $13 million Series B funding from Optum Ventures and Oxford Science Enterprises.

The announcement comes in the midst of increased demand for mental health services coupled with a severe psychiatrist and provider shortage. Some lawmakers have proposed legislation that would aim to address the shortage of psychiatrists and mental health care providers — especially in schools and areas of need, like rural areas.

OxfordVR’s gameChange product, an immersive therapy for serious mental illness, was granted with a Food and Drug Administration breakthrough device designation earlier this year. The product brings automated cognitive behavioral therapy to people in immersive, safe virtual settings; they are guided through everyday simulations like cafes, pubs, streets and a doctor’s office.

The clinical trial exploring gameChange found that people experienced higher levels of satisfaction and confidence — as well as decreased anxiety and worry – in everyday tasks in their real lives.

Virtual reality has been explored as a treatment option for mental illness for some time now, but the COVID-19 pandemic likely accelerated its growth. The 3-D format, and the ability for patients to escape into new virtual worlds, has been linked to psychological benefits for people with mental illness, according to a 2022 study.

Gani will lead the new combined company, and he’ll be accompanied by Daniel Freeman, a psychiatrist and researcher, on the leadership team.