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Treating patients with driving phobia by virtual reality exposure therapy – a pilot study

Y Kaussner, A M Kuraszkiewicz, S Schoch, Petra Markel, S Hoffmann, R Baur-Streubel, R Kenntner-Mabiala and P Pauli

PLOS ONE, 2020, vol. 15, issue 1, 1-14

Abstract: Objectives: Virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) is a promising treatment for patients with fear of driving. The present pilot study is the first one focusing on behavioral effects of VRET on patients with fear of driving as measured by a post-treatment driving test in real traffic. Methods: The therapy followed a standardized manual including psychotherapeutic and medical examination, two preparative psychotherapy sessions, five virtual reality exposure sessions, a final behavioral avoidance test (BAT) in real traffic, a closing session, and two follow-up phone assessments after six and twelve weeks. VRE was conducted in a driving simulator with a fully equipped mockup. The exposure scenarios were individually tailored to the patients’ anxiety hierarchy. A total of 14 patients were treated. Parameters on the verbal, behavioral and physiological level were assessed. Results: The treatment was helpful to overcome driving fear and avoidance. In the final BAT, all patients mastered driving tasks they had avoided before, 71% showed an adequate driving behavior as assessed by the driving instructor, and 93% could maintain their treatment success until the second follow-up phone call. Further analyses suggest that treatment reduces avoidance behavior as well as symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder as measured by standardized questionnaires (Avoidance and Fusion Questionnaire: p

Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0226937

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