Recent Progress in Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy for Phobias: A Systematic Review

Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2017 Jul;19(7):42. doi: 10.1007/s11920-017-0788-4.


This review is designed to systematically examine the available evidence about virtual reality exposure therapy's (VRET) efficacy for phobias, critically describe some of the most important challenges in the field and discuss possible directions. Evidence reveals that virtual reality (VR) is an effective treatment for phobias and useful for studying specific issues, such as pharmacological compounds and behavioral manipulations, that can enhance treatment outcomes. In addition, some variables, such as sense of presence in virtual environments, have a significant influence on outcomes, but further research is needed to better understand their role in therapeutic outcomes. We conclude that VR is a useful tool to improve exposure therapy and it can be a good option to analyze the processes and mechanisms involved in exposure therapy and the ways this strategy can be enhanced. In the coming years, there will be a significant expansion of VR in routine practice in clinical contexts.

Keywords: Mixed realities; Phobias interventions; Psychological treatments; Systematic review; Virtual reality.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavior Control / methods
  • Humans
  • Phobic Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Phobic Disorders* / psychology
  • Phobic Disorders* / therapy
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Virtual Reality
  • Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy / methods*