Virtual reality in mental health
- First Online:
- 2.9k Downloads
Several virtual reality (VR) applications for the understanding, assessment and treatment of mental health problems have been developed in the last 10 years. The purpose of this review is to outline the current state of virtual reality research in the treatment of mental health problems.
PubMed and PsycINFO were searched for all articles containing the words “virtual reality”. In addition a manual search of the references contained in the papers resulting from this search was conducted and relevant periodicals were searched. Studies reporting the results of treatment utilizing VR in the mental health field and involving at least one patient were identified.
More than 50 studies using VR were identified, the majority of which were case studies. Seventeen employed a between groups design: 4 involved patients with fear of flying; 3 involved patients with fear of heights; 3 involved patients with social phobia/public speaking anxiety; 2 involved people with spider phobia; 2 involved patients with agoraphobia; 2 involved patients with body image disturbance and 1 involved obese patients. There are both advantages in terms of delivery and disadvantages in terms of side effects to using VR. Although virtual reality based therapy appears to be superior to no treatment the effectiveness of VR therapy over traditional therapeutic approaches is not supported by the research currently available.
There is a lack of good quality research on the effectiveness of VR therapy. Before clinicians will be able to make effective use of this emerging technology greater emphasis must be placed on controlled trials with clinically identified populations.
Key wordsvirtual reality simulations exposure therapy mental health
- 2.Blade RA, Padgett ML (2002) Virtual environments standards and terminology. In: Stanney KM (ed) Handbook of virtual environments: design, implementation and applications. New Jersey, Lawrence ErlbaumGoogle Scholar
- 3.Borenstein M, Rothstein H (1999) Comprehensive meta-analysis. A computer program for research synthesis. Biostat®, USA (http://www.metaanalysis.com)
- 14.Gershon J, Anderson P, Graap K, Zimand E, Hodges L, Rothbaum B (2002) Virtual reality exposure therapy in the treatment of anxiety disorders. Sci Rev Ment Health Prac 1:76–81Google Scholar
- 17.Hodges LF, Rothbaum BO, Kooper R, Opdyke D, Meyer T, North M, de Graff J, Williford J (1995) Virtual environments for treating the fear of heights. IEEE Comp 28:27–34Google Scholar
- 21.Klein RA (1998) Virtual reality exposure therapy (fear of flying): From a private practice perspective. CyberPsychol Behav 1:311–316Google Scholar
- 27.Lewis CH, Griffin MJ (1997) Human factors consideration in clinical applications of virtual reality. In: Riva G (ed) Virtual reality in neuropsychophsiology. Amsterdam, IOS PressGoogle Scholar
- 31.North MM, North SM, Coble JR (1995) Effectiveness of virtual environment desensitization in the treatment of agoraphobia. Int J Virtual Reality 1:25–34Google Scholar
- 32.North MM, North SM, Coble JR (1997a) Virtual reality therapy for fear of flying. Am J Psychiat 154:130Google Scholar
- 33.North M, North S, Coble J (1997b) Virtual reality therapy: an effective treatment for the fear of public speaking. Int J Virt Reality 3:2–7Google Scholar
- 37.Pertaub DP, Slater M, Barker C (2002) An experiment on fear of public speaking in virtual reality. Stud Health Technol Inform 81:372–378Google Scholar
- 38.Pull CB (2005) Current status of virtual reality exposure therapy in anxiety disorders. Curr Opin Psychiat 18:7–14Google Scholar
- 40.Riva G (2003) Virtual environments in clinical psychology. Psychotherapy: theory, research, practice. Training 40:68–76Google Scholar
- 49.Rothbaum BO, Hodges LF, Kooper R, Opdyke D, Williford JS, North M (1995b) Effectiveness of computer-generated (virtual reality) graded exposure in the treatment of acrophobia. Am J Psychiat 152:626–628Google Scholar
- 53.Smith S, Rothbaum BO, Hodges L (1999) Treatment of fear of flying using virtual reality exposure therapy: a single case study. Behav Therapist 154:160Google Scholar
- 58.Viirre E, Bush D (2002) Direct effects of virtual environments on users. In: Stanney KM (ed) Handbook of virtual environments: design, implementation and applications. New Jersey, Lawrence ErlbaumGoogle Scholar
- 64.Wiederhold BK, Gevirtz RN, Spira JL (2001) Virtual reality exposure therapy vs. imagery desensitization in the treatment of flying phobia. In: Riva G, Galimberti C (eds) Towards cyberpsychology: mind, cognitions and society in the internet age. Amsterdam, IOS press, pp 253–272Google Scholar