Virtual reality exposure therapy for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder: a methodological review using CONSORT guidelines

J Clin Psychol. 2014 Mar;70(3):197-208. doi: 10.1002/jclp.22051. Epub 2013 Sep 24.


Context: Virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) is an extension of traditional exposure therapy and has been used to treat a variety of anxiety disorders. VRET utilizes a computer-generated virtual environment to present fear-relevant stimuli. Recent studies have evaluated the use of VRET for treatment of PTSD; however, a systematic evaluation of the methodological quality of these studies has yet to be conducted.

Objectives: This review aims to (a) identify treatment outcome studies examining the use of VRET for the treatment of PTSD and (b) appraise the methodological quality of each study using the 2010 Consolidating Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) Statement and its 2008 extension for nonpharmacologic interventions.

Methods: Two independent assessors conducted a database search (PsycINFO, Medline, CINAHL, Google Scholar) of studies published between January 1990 and June 2013 that reported outcome data comparing VRET with another type of treatment or a control condition. Next, a CONSORT quality appraisal of each study was completed.

Results: The search yielded nine unique studies. The CONSORT appraisal revealed that the methodological quality of studies examining VRET as a treatment for PTSD was variable.

Conclusion: Although preliminary findings suggest some positive results for VRET as a form of exposure treatment for PTSD, additional research using well-specified randomization procedures, assessor blinding, and monitoring of treatment adherence is warranted. Movement toward greater standardization of treatment manuals, virtual environments, and equipment would further facilitate interpretation and consolidation of this literature.

Keywords: CONSORT Statement; Virtual Reality; exposure therapy; posttraumatic stress disorder; treatment outcome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / methods*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / standards
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy*
  • Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy / methods*
  • Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy / standards