Virtual reality treatment versus exposure in vivo: a comparative evaluation in acrophobia

Behav Res Ther. 2002 May;40(5):509-16. doi: 10.1016/s0005-7967(01)00023-7.


The aim of the present study was to evaluate the effectiveness of low-budget virtual reality (VR) exposure versus exposure in vivo in a between-group design in 33 patients suffering from acrophobia. The virtual environments used in treatment were exactly copied from the real environments used in the exposure in vivo program. VR exposure was found to be as effective as exposure in vivo on anxiety and avoidance as measured with the Acrophobia Questionnaire (AQ), the Attitude Towards Heights Questionnaire (ATHQ) and the Behavioral Avoidance Test (BAT). Results were maintained up to six months follow-up. The present study shows that VR exposure can be effective with relatively cheap hardware and software on stand-alone computers currently on the market. Further studies into the effectiveness of VR exposure are recommended in other clinical groups as agoraphobics and social phobics and studies in which VR exposure is compared with more emerging virtual worlds as presented in CAVE-type systems.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Phobic Disorders / therapy*
  • Random Allocation
  • Treatment Outcome
  • User-Computer Interface*