Globally, access to evidence-based psychological treatment is limited. Innovative self-help methods using smartphone applications and low-cost virtual reality have the potential to significantly improve the accessibility and scalability of psychological treatments.
In the upcoming issue of JAMA Psychiatry we report on the effectiveness of ZeroPhobia, a fully self-guided app-based virtual reality cognitive behavior therapy (VR CBT) using low-cost (cardboard) virtual reality goggles compared with a wait-list control group and to determine its user friendliness.
In total, 193 participants were randomly assigned to intervention or a wait-list control group. An intent-to-treat analysis showed a significant reduction of acrophobia symptoms at posttest at 3 months for the VR-CBT app compared with the controls. The number needed to treat was 1.7. Sensitivity and robustness analysis confirmed these findings. Pretreatment attrition was 22 of 96 (23%) because of smartphone incompatibility. Of the 74 participants who started using the VR-CBT app, 57 (77%) completed the intervention fully.
Conclusions and Relevance
A low-cost fully self-guided app-based virtual reality cognitive behavioral therapy with rudimentary virtual reality goggles can produce large acrophobia symptom reductions. To our knowledge, this study is the first to show that virtual reality acrophobia treatment can be done at home without the intervention of a therapist.
Read the full paper:
Donker, T., Cornelisz, I., van Klaveren, C., van Straten, A., Carlbring, P., Cuijpers, P., & van Gelder, J.-L. (2019). Effectiveness of Self-guided App-Based Virtual Reality Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Acrophobia: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Psychiatry, 76(7), 682-690. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2019.0219