Virtual Reality Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for anxiety disorders utilizes exposure to feared stimuli as a main component of treatment.

Sometimes these exposures can be difficult to create in an office setting (e.g. speaking in front of a large audience) or can be too expensive to engage in on a regular basis (e.g. flying in an airplane).

Fortunately there are alternatives that have shown to be very effective in treating anxiety disorders. Virtual Reality (VR) has been used to expand the variety of scenarios that can be created in an office setting to help individuals overcome their fears.

During a VR session the client wears goggles and headphones that are attached to a computer. They will see and hear a computer simulated scenario based upon their feared situation. A therapist is present in the room and communicates with you via the headphones to help you through the exposure. The therapist can adjust various elements of the program before and during a session in order to tailor the scenario to your treatment needs.

The ADC currently has several VR simulations:

  • Fear of flying
  • Social Phobia (Public Speaking, Job Interview)
  • Fear of thunderstorms
  • Fear of elevators/heights
  • PTSD related to Vietnam
  • PTSD related to Iraq
  • PTSD related to Afghanistan
  • PTSD related to he collapse of the World Trade Center

VR can be used as a major or minor component to your therapy. The treating clinician can help determine the extent to which VR needs to be used in treatment. Even for those treatments in which VR is the main exposure element, real world exposures will be an important part of treatment. For example, an individual who fears flying may use VR to overcome their fear, but a plane flight will still be a necessary element of their treatment.

Anxiety Disorders Center