Date of Conferral

2019

Degree

Ph.D.

School

Psychology

Advisor

Jimmy Middlebrook

Abstract

Virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) is a treatment often used to treat fear-of-flying (FOF), which research shows is effective for treating this phobia. Researchers have identified that the realism of the virtual environment is an important component in the efficacy of VRET and increased realism is likely to increase the efficacy of VRET. Guided by cognitive theory, emotional processing theory, and behaviorism, the purpose of this quantitative study was to demonstrate if a new generational technique called true reality-virtual reality exposure therapy (TR-VRET) is at least as efficacious as traditional VRET for treating the fear and anxiety associated with FOF. Repeated measures ANOVAs were used to compare the means between the pre-/posttests measuring fear and anxiety associated with FOF and between the control and experimental group. Both the active treatment experimental group (using TR-VRET) and the active treatment control group (using VRET) had a significant effect on reducing anxiety related to flying. The findings also revealed that both the active treatment experimental group and the active treatment control group had a significant effect on reducing fear related to flying. Notably, no significant differences were found between the active treatment experimental group and the active treatment control group, meaning the 2 treatments were equally effective at reducing the anxiety and fear related to flying. These findings can contribute to positive social change by allowing mental health professionals access to an advanced treatment tool (i.e., TR-VRET) that is just as effective as the older treatment tool (i.e., VRET). These findings can also contribute to positive social change by quickly allowing more tailored virtual environments to be created for clients at a lower cost.

Available for download on Thursday, September 24, 2020

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