Behavioural Science Blog

The Science of Human Behaviour

Three Recent Applications of Virtual Reality in Psychotherapy Training

with 3 comments (which turned up as #1 in Google) is an organization that is called Virtual Reality Medical Center. They treat all kinds of anxiety related disorders, but seem to focus mainly on specific phobias. After the intake session the client is taught skills to suppress automatic fear reactions. In the following sessions the client is gradually exposed to the feared stimulus. In other words: VR desensitisation.

Obesity and addiction have some common properties. This research seeks to integrate some findings of addiction research into eating disorder therapy. In that light they make use of VR for distinct goals: Help the client to experience the own body in situations that are normally avoided. This experience is supposed to have influence on body perception and also empower the client. In the VR patients came “face to screen” with their personal risk situations (supermarket, gym, etc…) and could train emotion regulation and problem-solving skills in a save environment. The randomized clinical trial seems to indicate that the ECT group did indeed better than standard CBT.

As shows also psycho-dynamic therapists start to see the merits in using new technology. Erection dysfunction and premature ejaculation are treated in a virtual environment (the porn industry will love that application) together with standard psychotherapy. The possibility to enact the new strategies in a save and private environment is supposed to speed up the therapeutic process. First clinical trials seem to indicate that this might indeed work for some clients, also it is not clear for whom exactly. Sample size is not adequate in study 1, power is much stronger in study 2. Results are not telling a clear story (yet?).

By the way: is the most comprehensive and excellent source for material about VR in psychotherapy that I could find on the net. Especially have a look at the free books, like or The articles are downloadable as PDF (just scroll down). Especially look at book 3 session 2 that comprises some clinical controlled trials with cybertherapy (which seems to be the keyword I was desperately looking for).

Written by Martin Metzmacher

November 15, 2008 at 11:43 am

3 Responses

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  1. I love the idea of using VR to treat obesity and eating disorders, especially since obesity is a major risk factor in the United States. However, I wonder if treatment is fully effective when patient know its only a VR and not a real situation. Do these patients take their treatment seriously?

    Shannon Liauw

    May 5, 2011 at 6:39 pm

  2. Hola que tal, vivo en Mexico Distrito Federal. y estoy muy interesada en tomar terapia de realidad virtual ya que sufro de claustrofobia , terror a aviones y elevadores con ataques de panico y quisiera saber a donde puedo acudir a terapia aqui en la ciudad de mexico.
    mil gracias
    dios los bendiga


    May 19, 2011 at 2:59 am

  3. Hola dianis,

    sorry but I do not speak spanisch. I hope that another reader on this website will be able to help you with your request.


    Martin Metzmacher

    May 19, 2011 at 8:19 am

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