Three-year follow-up for virtual reality exposure for fear of flying
Sorry, all you VR geeks out there! Although Virtual Reality was found effective at helping with fear of flying, 2 studies show it’s no better than imaginal exposure (using the imagination without the equipment), and sometimes not as good.
Thirty participants who had been treated for aviophobia (fear of flying) with virtual reality graded exposure therapy with physiological monitoring and visual feedback (VRGETpm), virtual reality graded exposure therapy with physiological monitoring only (VRGETno), or imaginal exposure therapy (imagery) with physiological monitoring only (IET) between January 1998 and January 1999 were contacted in January 2002 for a 3-year posttreatment follow-up assessment.
Of the participants in the VRGETpm group who had flown successfully by the end of treatment, all had maintained their ability to fly at follow-up. Of the participants in the VRGETno group who had flown successfully by the end of treatment, two were no longer able to fly. Of the participants in the IET group who had flown successfully, all were still able to fly. It appears that the imaginal exposure therapy performed as well as one of the VR conditions, and better than the other.
Citation: Wiederhold BK, Wiederhold MD. Three-Year Follow-Up for Virtual Reality Exposure for Fear of Flying CyberPsychology & Behavior vol 6, no. 4 Page: 441 - 445.
Researchers from Emory University reported on a 12-month follow-up study, with patients suffering from the fear of flying, who were treated in a controlled study and randomly assigned (n = 49) to virtual reality exposure (VRE) therapy, standard exposure (SE) therapy, or to a wait-list control (WL).
The results show that VRE and SE were equally superior to WL. At 12 months posttreatment, data were gathered on 24 of the 30 (80%) patients who were assigned to VRE or SE. These subjects had maintained their treatment gains, and 92% of VRE participants and 91% of SE participants had flown on a real airplane since the graduation flight.
This is the 1st year-long follow-up of patients having been treated with VRE and indicates that short-term treatment can have lasting effects, but these effects are not any more effective than standard exposure therapy.
Citation: Rothbaum BO, Hodges L, Anderson PL, Price L, Smith S. Twelve-month follow-up of virtual reality and standard exposure therapies for the fear of flying. J Consult Clin Psychol. 2002 Apr;70 (2): pp.428-32.