Virtual Reality Therapy Efficacy
Randomized, tightly controlled, acrophobia treatment trials at Kaiser Permanent provided >90% effectiveness, conducted in 1993–94. Of 40 patients treated, 38 showed marked reduction in phobic reaction to heights and self-reported reaching their goals. Research found that Virtual Reality Therapy allows patients to achieve victory over virtual height situations they could not confront in real life, and that gradually increasing the height and danger in a virtual environment produced increasing victories and greater self-confidence in the patient that they could actually confront the situation in real life. "Virtual therapy interventions empower people. The simulation technology of virtual reality lends itself to mastery oriented treatment. Rather than coping with threats, phobics manage progressively more threatening aspects in a computer-generated environment. The range of applications can be extended by enhancing the realness and interactivity so that actions elicit reactions from the environments in which individuals immerse themselves".
Another study examined the effectiveness of virtual reality therapy in treating military combat personnel recently returning from the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rauch, Eftekhari and Ruzek conducted a study with a sample of 42 combat servicemen who were already diagnosed with chronic PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). These combat servicemen were pre-screened using several different diagnostic self-reports including the PTSD military checklist, a screening tool used by the military in the determination of the intensity of the diagnosis of PTSD by measuring the presence of PTSD symptoms. Although 22 of the servicemen dropped out of the study, the results of the study concerning the 20 remaining servicemen still has merit. The servicemen were given the same diagnostic tests after the study which consisted of multiple sessions of virtual reality exposure and virtual reality exposure therapy. The servicemen showed much improvement in the diagnostic scores, signaling a decrease of symptoms of PTSD.
Likewise, a three-month follow-up diagnostic screening was also administered after the initial sessions that were undergone by the servicemen. The results of this study showed that 15 of the 20 participants no longer met diagnostic criteria for PTSD and improved their PTSD military checklist score by 50% for the assessment following the study. Even though only 17 of the 20 participants participated in the 3-month follow-up screening, 13 of the 17 still did not meet the criteria for PTSD and maintained their 50% improvement in the PTSD military checklist score. These results show promising effects and help to validate virtual reality therapy as an efficacious mode of therapy for the treatment of PTSD.