Virtual reality exposure therapy in anxiety disorders: a quantitative meta-analysis

Depress Anxiety. 2012 Feb;29(2):85-93. doi: 10.1002/da.20910. Epub 2011 Nov 7.


Virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) is a promising intervention for the treatment of the anxiety disorders. The main objective of this meta-analysis is to compare the efficacy of VRET, used in a behavioral or cognitive-behavioral framework, with that of the classical evidence-based treatments, in anxiety disorders. A comprehensive search of the literature identified 23 studies (n = 608) that were included in the final analysis. The results show that in the case of anxiety disorders, (1) VRET does far better than the waitlist control; (2) the post-treatment results show similar efficacy between the behavioral and the cognitive behavioral interventions incorporating a virtual reality exposure component and the classical evidence-based interventions, with no virtual reality exposure component; (3) VRET has a powerful real-life impact, similar to that of the classical evidence-based treatments; (4) VRET has a good stability of results over time, similar to that of the classical evidence-based treatments; (5) there is a dose-response relationship for VRET; and (6) there is no difference in the dropout rate between the virtual reality exposure and the in vivo exposure. Implications are discussed.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Implosive Therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • User-Computer Interface*