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Treatment Of Storm Fears Using Virtual Reality And Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Jessica Lima, Hanna McCabe-Bennett, Martin M. Antony

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Background: The present study examined the efficacy of virtual reality (VR) exposure therapy for treating individuals with storm fears by comparing a one-session VR exposure treatment with a one-session progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) and psychoeducation session. Aims: It was predicted that there would be a reduction in storm-related fear post-treatment for individuals in both conditions, but that this reduction would be greater for those in the VR exposure condition. It was predicted that improvements would be maintained at 30-day follow-up only for those in the VR exposure condition. Method: Thirty-six participants each received one of the two treatment conditions. Those in the PMR treatment group received approximately 30 minutes of PMR and approximately 15 minutes of psychoeducation regarding storms. Those in the VR treatment group received approximately 1 hour of VR exposure. Additionally, participants were asked to complete a pre-treatment and post-treatment 5-minute behavioural approach test to assess changes in storm fears. They were also asked to complete a measure assessing storm phobia. Results: There was a significant interaction between treatment group and self-reported fear at post-treatment, such that fear decreased for both groups, although the reduction was stronger in the VR group. Results also showed that reductions in storm fear were maintained at 30-day follow-up for both groups. Conclusions: Although this study used a small non-clinical sample, these results offer preliminary support for the use of VR exposure therapy in the treatment of storm-related fear.