Recent Progress in Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy for Phobias: A Systematic Review

Abstract

This review is designed to systematically examine the available evidence about virtual reality exposure therapy’s (VRET) efficacy for phobias, critically describe some of the most important challenges in the field and discuss possible directions. Evidence reveals that virtual reality (VR) is an effective treatment for phobias and useful for studying specific issues, such as pharmacological compounds and behavioral manipulations, that can enhance treatment outcomes. In addition, some variables, such as sense of presence in virtual environments, have a significant influence on outcomes, but further research is needed to better understand their role in therapeutic outcomes. We conclude that VR is a useful tool to improve exposure therapy and it can be a good option to analyze the processes and mechanisms involved in exposure therapy and the ways this strategy can be enhanced. In the coming years, there will be a significant expansion of VR in routine practice in clinical contexts.

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Acknowledgements

This study was funded by the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (Spain), (Plan Nacional I + D + I. PSI2014-54172-R), and the Institute of Health Carlos III (ISCiii) CIBERobn is an initiative of ISCIII.

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Correspondence to Cristina Botella.

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Cristina Botella, Javier Fernández-Álvarez, Verónica Guillén, Azucena García-Palacios, and Rosa Baños declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Anxiety Disorders

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Botella, C., Fernández-Álvarez, J., Guillén, V. et al. Recent Progress in Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy for Phobias: A Systematic Review. Curr Psychiatry Rep 19, 42 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11920-017-0788-4

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Keywords

  • Virtual reality
  • Mixed realities
  • Psychological treatments
  • Phobias interventions
  • Systematic review