A pilot study out of France shows that virtual reality therapy works well for social phobias, but no better than standard, cognitive behavioral therapy.

This unique preliminary study out of Caen, France assesses the efficacy of virtual reality therapy (VRT) for alleviating social phobia, since it has been found helpful for fear of public speaking. Virtual reality therapy was compared to a control condition - group cognitive behavioral therapy - where graded exposure to feared social situations is one of the fundamental therapeutic ingredients.

Thirty-six participants diagnosed with social phobia were randomly assigned to either the VRT or a group-CBT condition. The virtual environments used in the treatment recreate four situations dealing with social anxiety: performance, intimacy, scrutiny, and assertiveness. With the help of the therapist, the patient learns adapted cognitions and behaviors in order to reduce anxiety in the corresponding real situations. Both treatments lasted 12 weeks, and sessions were delivered according to a treatment manual.

Results showed statistically and clinically significant improvement in both conditions. The effect-sizes comparing the efficacy of VRT to the control traditional group-CBT revealed that the differences between the two treatments were trivial.

Citation: Klinger E, Bouchard S, Legeron P, Roy S, Lauer F, Chemin I, Nugues P.Virtual reality therapy versus cognitive behavior therapy for social phobia: a preliminary controlled study. Cyberpsychol Behav. 2005 Feb;8(1):76-88. [email protected]