Objective: This preliminary study endeavored to evaluate the use of virtual reality (VR) enhanced exposure therapy for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) consequent to the World Trade Center attacks of September 11, 2001.
Method: Participants were assigned to a VR treatment (N = 13) or a waitlist control (N = 8) group and were mostly middle-aged, male disaster workers. All participants were diagnosed with PTSD according to DSM-IV-TR criteria using the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS). The study was conducted between February 2002 and August 2005 in offices located in outpatient buildings of a hospital campus.
Results: Analysis of variance showed a significant interaction of time by group (p < .01) on CAPS scores, with a between-groups posttreatment effect size of 1.54. The VR group showed a significant decline in CAPS scores compared with the waitlist group (p < .01).
Conclusions: Our preliminary data suggest that VR is an effective treatment tool for enhancing exposure therapy for both civilians and disaster workers with PTSD and may be especially useful for those patients who cannot engage in imaginal exposure therapy.