Does VRET & ARET Work as a Treatment for PTSD?

Research Paper Title

Efficacy of immersive PTSD treatments: A systematic review of virtual and augmented reality exposure therapy and a meta-analysis of virtual reality exposure therapy.

Background

Virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) and augmented reality exposure therapy (ARET) are digitally assisted psychotherapies that potentially enhance posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment by increasing a patient’s sense of presence during exposure therapy.

This study aimed to systematically review current evidence regarding the efficacy of VRET and ARET as PTSD treatment.

Methods

A systematic electronic database search, a systematic quality assessment and two meta-analyses were conducted in accordance with PRISMA guidelines.

Results

Eleven studies on the efficacy of VRET for PTSD (n = 438) were found, but no studies on the efficacy of ARET. The majority of VRET studies were of a low quality and had heterogeneous results. Meta-analyses showed VRET outperformed waitlist control (standardised mean difference -0.64 (95% CI -1.05 to -0.22)) while no significant difference was found between VRET and active treatment conditions (standardised mean difference -0.25 (95% CI -0.77 to 0.27)).

Conclusions

VRET was superior to waitlist control groups and as effective as other psychotherapies. However, the results showed considerable heterogeneity due to the low number of studies and variety of VRET methods. VRET may be an effective alternative to current treatments and shows promise for the treatment of PTSD patients that have not responded to previous treatment.

Future research should focus on high quality RCTs, including information on side effects and adverse events, with sufficient numbers of participants.

This study recognises a research gap regarding the efficacy of ARET, while it may have potential for PTSD treatment.

Reference

Eshuis, L.V., van Gelderen, M.J., van Zuidan, M., Nijdam, M.J., Vermetten, E., Olff, M. & Bakker, A. (2020) Efficacy of immersive PTSD treatments: A systematic review of virtual and augmented reality exposure therapy and a meta-analysis of virtual reality exposure therapy. Journal of Psychiatric Research. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2020.11.030. Online ahead of print.

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