VR-therapy can help young people with performance anxiety

Smiti Kahlon will defend her PhD degree at the University of Bergen on 15 September 2022 with the thesis “Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy for Adolescents with Public Speaking Anxiety”.

The purpose of this PhD project is to help young people deal with presentation anxiety, and as a secondary goal to prevent the anxiety from spreading to other social situations. Presentation anxiety is one of the most common fears among young people and it is believed that approximately 30% experience presentation anxiety to such an extent that it affects everyday school life. A third of these also meet the criteria for generalized social anxiety.

Through two studies, it was investigated whether VR-training for young people is feasible and whether it reduces presentation anxiety. In the first study, 27 young people turned up at the clinic to participate in a 90-minute VR-based training session together with a therapist. The young people reported a large decrease in anxiety symptoms. This meant that we could conclude that VR-training has potential for young people with presentation anxiety. A goal of scaling and easy accessibility laid the foundation for the second study to be self-guided.

The second study was a randomized controlled trial using a home-based and self-guided exercise program. A total of 100 young people were randomized into four different groups; 1) VR training only, 2) VR training with subsequent online exposure program, 3) online psychoeducational program with subsequent online exposure program, and 4) waitlist with subsequent online psychoeducational program.

The findings showed that the young people who received VR-training had a greater reduction in anxiety symptoms compared to those who were only in the waitlist-group in the first part of the intervention. No group differences were found between the VR with subsequent exposure program compared to the other groups in the last part of the intervention.”

More information about the disputation can be found on UiB’s website here.