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

Autoři: Y. Kaussner aff001;  A. M. Kuraszkiewicz aff002;  S. Schoch aff001;  Petra Markel aff002;  S. Hoffmann aff003;  R. Baur-Streubel aff002;  R. Kenntner-Mabiala aff003;  P. Pauli aff002
Působiště autorů: Department of General Practice, University of Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany aff001;  Department of Psychology 1 (Biological Psychology, Clinical Psychology, and Psychotherapy), University of Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany aff002;  Würzburg Institute for Traffic Sciences (WIVW), Veitshöchheim, Germany aff003;  Center of Mental Health, Medical Faculty, University of Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany aff004
Vyšlo v časopise: PLoS ONE 15(1)
Kategorie: Research Article



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.


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.


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 < .10, PTSD Symptom Scale–Self Report: p < .05).


VRET in driving simulation is very promising to treat driving fear. Further research with randomized controlled trials is needed to verify efficacy. Moreover, simulators with lower configuration stages should be tested for a broad availability in psychotherapy.

Klíčová slova:

Animal behavior – Fear – Heart rate – Instructors – Mental health therapies – Pilot studies – Post-traumatic stress disorder – Psychometrics


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