Virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) exemplifies a new and modern approach in the treatment of a broad spectrum of mental health issues. It utilizes the same theoretical and practical principles as the traditional cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), however, the exposure to anxiety-provoking stimuli does not take place in real life (in vivo), but in virtual reality (in virtuo).
When compared to psychological placebos and wait-lists (waiting control group), VRET is a highly effective treatment with treatment effects generalized into real life. It is a low-cost therapeutic approach, highly preferred among young people and patients suffering from specific phobias. In the treatment of anxiety disorders, VRET achieves a high success rate after approximately 10 sessions. Moreover, the therapeutic effect lasts for many years after the treatment completion.
Virtual reality therapy is currently used in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, schizophrenia and psychotic disorders, eating disorders, ADHD, substance abuse, reduction of aggressive behavior in risk groups or stress-management.
In addition, VRET has found use in the treatment of autism, Alzheimer's disease, chronic pain, physiotherapy and rehabilitation of stroke and Parkinson's disease, as well as in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases.
The effectiveness of VRET was first confirmed in 1995. In the last years, this novel approach found its place in the treatment recommendations of global and European health institutions such as NICE, APA, etc. In Slovakia, an official implementation in the treatment guidelines is still awaited.