The efficacy of virtual reality exposure therapy for PTSD symptoms: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Wenrui Deng, Die Hu, S. Xu, Xiaoyu Liu, Jingwen Zhao, Qian Chen, Jiayuan Liu, Z. Zhang, Wenxiu Jiang, L. Ma, X. Hong, Shengrong Cheng, Boya Liu, Xiaoming Li

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Background: Virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) for PTSD is an emerging treatment of remarkable promise, but its efficacy and safety are still unclear. Our aim was to investigate the efficacy of VRET for individuals with PTSD, and to identify the potential moderating variables associated with interventions. Methods: Literature search was conducted via PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, Cochrane Library, PsycInfo, Science Direct, and EBSCO. We identified 18 studies on PTSD including 13 randomized controlled trials (RCTs; 654 participants) and 5 single-group trials (60 participants). Results: The main effects analysis showed a moderate effect size (g = 0.327, 95% CI: 0.105–0.550, p<0.01) for VRET compared to control conditions on PTSD symptoms. Subgroup analysis revealed that the effects of VRET were larger when compared to inactive groups (g = 0.567) than active control groups (g = 0.017). This finding was in agreement with depressive symptoms. A dose–response relationship existed with more VRET sessions showing larger effects. There was a long-range effect of VRET on PTSD symptoms indicating a sustained decrease in PTSD symptoms at 3-month follow-up (g = 0.697) and 6-month follow-up (g = 0.848). The single-group trials analysis revealed that the VRET intervention had a significant effect on PTSD. Limitations: Many of the combat-related PTSD subjects resulted in uncertainty regarding meta-analytical estimates and subsequent conclusions. Conclusions: These findings demonstrated that VRET could produce significant PTSD symptoms reduction and supported its application in treating PTSD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)698-709
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'The efficacy of virtual reality exposure therapy for PTSD symptoms: A systematic review and meta-analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this