A controlled study of agoraphobia and the independent effect of virtual reality exposure therapy

Eric Malbos*, Ronald M. Rapee, Manolya Kavakli

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Past controlled clinical trials centred on virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) for agoraphobia mostly used multicomponent therapy with success. However, the present paper aimed to evaluate the independent effect of VRET for agoraphobia. Methods: A controlled study involving 18 agoraphobic participants assigned to two groups: VRET only and VRET with cognitive therapy. Nine specific virtual environments were developed using an affordable game level editor. Results: Questionnaires, behavioural tests and physiological measures indicated a positive effect of VRET. Correlations supported the predictive value of presence towards treatment outcome. The addition of cognitive therapy did not provide significant additional benefit. Conclusions: Overall, the isolated effects of VRET did not seem to be significantly less than the effects of VRET combined with cognitive therapy. Future research should explore the use of other components in addition to cognitive therapy and VRET for agoraphobia as well as its possible use in patients homes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-168
Number of pages9
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number2
Early online date11 Jul 2012
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2013


  • agoraphobia
  • cognitive therapy
  • game level editors
  • presence
  • Virtual reality exposure therapy


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