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The efficacy of virtual reality exposure therapy to treat driving phobia Wald, Jaye

Abstract

The purpose of the study was to examine the efficacy of virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) to treat driving phobia using a multiple baseline across-subjects design. The sequence of events included a pre-treatment assessment, a baseline phase, 8 weekly VRET sessions using a standardized treatment protocol, a post-treatment assessment, and 1- and 3-month follow-up assessments. A sample of seven treatment seeking adults with a primary diagnosis of specific phobia (driving) was recruited. Five completed the treatment and follow-up phases. One individual withdrew after the pre-treatment assessment, and the other, after the first treatment session. It was hypothesized that VRET would reduce driving anxiety and avoidance symptoms between pre- and post-treatment assessments using several outcome measures. Visual and statistical analysis methods were used to assess treatment outcome. Three participants showed clear improvement in driving anxiety and avoidance symptoms between pre- and post-treatment assessments. There was a marginal improvement in these symptoms for one participant. The remaining participant showed very little improvement, and some outcome measures revealed slight deterioration in some of her symptoms. There was negligible change in actual driving frequency in any participant. Some gains were lost at the 1- and 3-month follow-up assessments, but symptoms remained far below pre-treatment results. Possibilities for future research and practice implications are discussed.

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