UCL logo

UCL Discovery

UCL home » Library Services » Electronic resources » UCL Discovery

Virtual reality in the assessment, understanding, and treatment of mental health disorders

Freeman, D; Reeve, S; Robinson, A; Ehlers, A; Clark, D; Spanlang, B; Slater, M; (2017) Virtual reality in the assessment, understanding, and treatment of mental health disorders. Psychological Medicine , 47 (14) pp. 2393-2400. 10.1017/S003329171700040X. Green open access

virtual_reality_in_the_assessment_understanding_and_treatment_of_mental_health_disorders.pdf - ["content_typename_Published version" not defined]

Download (175kB) | Preview


Mental health problems are inseparable from the environment. With virtual reality (VR), computer-generated interactive environments, individuals can repeatedly experience their problematic situations and be taught, via evidence-based psychological treatments, how to overcome difficulties. VR is moving out of specialist laboratories. Our central aim was to describe the potential of VR in mental health, including a consideration of the first 20 years of applications. A systematic review of empirical studies was conducted. In all, 285 studies were identified, with 86 concerning assessment, 45 theory development, and 154 treatment. The main disorders researched were anxiety (n = 192), schizophrenia (n = 44), substance-related disorders (n = 22) and eating disorders (n = 18). There are pioneering early studies, but the methodological quality of studies was generally low. The gaps in meaningful applications to mental health are extensive. The most established finding is that VR exposure-based treatments can reduce anxiety disorders, but there are numerous research and treatment avenues of promise. VR was found to be a much-misused term, often applied to non-interactive and non-immersive technologies. We conclude that VR has the potential to transform the assessment, understanding and treatment of mental health problems. The treatment possibilities will only be realized if - with the user experience at the heart of design - the best immersive VR technology is combined with targeted translational interventions. The capability of VR to simulate reality could greatly increase access to psychological therapies, while treatment outcomes could be enhanced by the technology's ability to create new realities. VR may merit the level of attention given to neuroimaging.

Type: Article
Title: Virtual reality in the assessment, understanding, and treatment of mental health disorders
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1017/S003329171700040X
Publisher version: http://doi.org/10.1017/S003329171700040X
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2017 This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: Assessment, mental health, theory, treatment, virtual reality (VR)
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10048472
Downloads since deposit
Download activity - last month
Download activity - last 12 months
Downloads by country - last 12 months

Archive Staff Only

View Item View Item