The feasibility and acceptability of virtual environments in the treatment of childhood social anxiety disorder

J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol. 2014;43(1):63-73. doi: 10.1080/15374416.2013.843461. Epub 2013 Oct 21.


Two significant challenges for the dissemination of social skills training programs are the need to assure generalizability and provide sufficient practice opportunities. In the case of social anxiety disorder, virtual environments may provide one strategy to address these issues. This study evaluated the utility of an interactive virtual school environment for the treatment of social anxiety disorder in preadolescent children. Eleven children with a primary diagnosis of social anxiety disorder between 8 to 12 years old participated in this initial feasibility trial. All children were treated with Social Effectiveness Therapy for Children, an empirically supported treatment for children with social anxiety disorder. However, the in vivo peer generalization sessions and standard parent-assisted homework assignments were substituted by practice in a virtual environment. Overall, the virtual environment programs were acceptable, feasible, and credible treatment components. Both children and clinicians were satisfied with using the virtual environment technology, and children believed it was a high-quality program overall. In addition, parents were satisfied with the virtual environment augmented treatment and indicated that they would recommend the program to family and friends. Findings indicate that the virtual environments are viewed as acceptable and credible by potential recipients. Furthermore, they are easy to implement by even novice users and appear to be useful adjunctive elements for the treatment of childhood social anxiety disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / therapy*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parents / psychology
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Phobic Disorders / therapy*
  • Program Evaluation
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy*