A controlled study of virtual reality exposure therapy for the fear of flying

J Consult Clin Psychol. 2000 Dec;68(6):1020-6. doi: 10.1037//0022-006x.68.6.1020.


Fear of flying (FOF) affects an estimated 10-25% of the population. Patients with FOF (N = 49) were randomly assigned to virtual reality exposure (VRE) therapy, standard exposure (SE) therapy, or a wait-list (WL) control. Treatment consisted of 8 sessions over 6 weeks, with 4 sessions of anxiety management training followed by either exposure to a virtual airplane (VRE) or exposure to an actual airplane at the airport (SE). A posttreatment flight on a commercial airline measured participants' willingness to fly and anxiety during flight immediately after treatment. The results indicated that VRE and SE were both superior to WL, with no differences between VRE and SE. The gains observed in treatment were maintained at a 6-month follow up. By 6 months posttreatment, 93% of VRE participants and 93% of SE participants had flown. VRE therapy and SE therapy for treatment of FOF were unequivocally supported in this controlled study.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Agoraphobia / psychology
  • Agoraphobia / therapy
  • Aircraft*
  • Desensitization, Psychologic / methods*
  • Fear*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Panic Disorder / psychology
  • Panic Disorder / therapy
  • Phobic Disorders / psychology
  • Phobic Disorders / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • User-Computer Interface*