“Our effects in terms of symptom reduction are comparable in size to effects found in previous research in which traditional CBT with a therapist was examined,” Donker said. “Furthermore, our results are comparable to previous therapist-guided studies using high-end VR equipment for acrophobia.”
Experts welcomed the latest virtual reality therapy.
“The bottom line is this is fantastic,” said Dr. O. Joseph Bienvenu, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. “It’s great news that a simple smartphone-based app is available as an efficient exposure therapy.”
Bienvenu, who wasn’t involved in the study, believes this type of therapy could be the wave of the future.
“It’s not hard to imagine that programs like this will blossom for treating other specific phobias, besides heights, and posttraumatic stress disorder,” Bienvenu said in an email. “This is very exciting!”
VR therapies may fill the void caused by the shortage of therapists, said Dr. Robert Hudak, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh, who wasn’t involved in the study. “Finding good cognitive behavioral therapy can be tough in a lot of places and something like this may be the only choice,” he added.
Still, Hudak thinks, it’s better if a therapist can be involved when people use VR to help overcome their phobias. “My preference would be that they use it at home under the direction of a trained mental health professional.”
If the VR doesn’t work, people shouldn’t assume there is no help for them, Hudak said. At that point, “I would suggest they see someone about their phobia.”
Story from Reuters, as written by Linda Carroll.
Source: JAMA Psychiatry.
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