Virtual Reality Treatment

Cognitive Behavior Therapy Associates of Denver (CBT Denver) offers cutting edge treatment for anxiety, phobias, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Virtual Reality (VR), also called Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET) is where cognitive behavioral therapy meets the latest technology.  In VRET, patients are fitted with a headset and headphones and with the help of the therapist are coached to fully engage, in a controlled way, in a feared or anxiety producing situation. Within the virtual environment patients can see and hear within a three-dimensional virtual world.  The technology can be manipulated to titrate the feared situation and to gradually help the patient habituate to the anxiety producing experience.  VR augments exposure therapy in which patients are typically asked to either imagine a stressful situation and/or to participate in an in vivo (real life) hierarchy of feared activities.  Because of the immersive quality of this type of treatment, patients often need fewer therapy sessions to gain some relief from their anxiety when faced with previously avoided scenarios.

In addition to targeting common phobias and PTSD, virtual reality is also used to enhance relaxation and mindfulness in the therapeutic setting.

Environments for VR include:

  • Fear of Needles and Needle Injection
  • Fear of Flying
  • Fear of Driving
  • Fear of Animals
  • Fear of Bugs
  • Acrophobia (fear of heights)
  • Claustrophobia (including MRI specific)
  • Fear of Public Speaking
  • Social Anxiety
  • Relaxation and Mindfulness
  • In addition, VR environments can be therapeutically relevant to a host of common issues that we see in our practice:
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Mood Disorders (Major Depression and Dysthymia)
  • Insomnia
  • Social and Communication Skills Training
  • Agoraphobia
  • Health Anxiety


Gerardi, M., Rothbaum, B. O., Ressler, K., Heekin, M., & Rizzo, A. (2008). Virtual reality exposure therapy using a virtual iraq: Case report. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 21(2), 209-213.

Gerardi, M., Cukor, J., Difede, J., Rizzo, A., & Rothbaum, B. (2010). Virtual reality exposure therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder and other anxiety disorders. Current Psychiatry Reports, 12(4), 298-305.

Parsons, T. D., & Rizzo, A. A. (2008). Affective outcomes of virtual reality exposure therapy for anxiety and specific phobias: A meta-analysis. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 39(3), 250-261.

Powers, M. B., & Emmelkamp, P. M. G. (2008). Virtual reality exposure therapy for anxiety disorders: A meta-analysis. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 22(3), 561-569.

B. O. Rothbaum, L. Hodges, S. Smith, J. H. Lee, L. Price (2000). A Controlled Study of Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy for the Fear of Flying. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68 (6), 1020-1026