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Using virtual reality to improve the efficacy of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) in the treatment of late-life anxiety: preliminary recommendations for future research

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 November 2014

Sébastien Grenier*
Affiliation:
Centre de recherche, Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal (CRIUGM), Montreal (Quebec), Canada Université de Montréal, Montreal (Quebec), Canada
Hélène Forget
Affiliation:
Université du Québec en Outaouais (UQO), Gatineau (Quebec), Canada
Stéphane Bouchard
Affiliation:
Université du Québec en Outaouais (UQO), Gatineau (Quebec), Canada
Sébastien Isere
Affiliation:
Université du Québec en Outaouais (UQO), Gatineau (Quebec), Canada
Sylvie Belleville
Affiliation:
Centre de recherche, Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal (CRIUGM), Montreal (Quebec), Canada Université de Montréal, Montreal (Quebec), Canada
Olivier Potvin
Affiliation:
Centre de recherche, Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Québec, Quebec (Quebec), Canada
Marie-Ève Rioux
Affiliation:
Université de Montréal, Montreal (Quebec), Canada
Mélissa Talbot
Affiliation:
Université de Montréal, Montreal (Quebec), Canada
*
Correspondence should be addressed to: Sébastien Grenier, Centre de recherche, Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal (CRIUGM), 4565, Queen-Mary road, Montréal (Québec), Canada, H3W 1W5. Phone: 1 514-340-3540, ext. 4782; Fax: 1 514-340-2801. Email: sebastien.grenier@umontreal.ca.

Abstract

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) using traditional exposure techniques (i.e. imaginal and in vivo) seems less effective to treat anxiety in older adults than in younger ones. This is particularly true when imaginal exposure is used to confront the older patient to inaccessible (e.g. fear of flying) or less tangible/controllable anxiety triggers (e.g. fear of illness). Indeed, imaginal exposure may become less effective as the person gets older since normal aging is characterized by the decline in cognitive functions involved in the creation of vivid/detailed mental images. One way to circumvent this difficulty is to expose the older patient to a virtual environment that does not require the ability to imagine the frightening situation. In virtuo exposure has proven to be efficient to treat anxiety in working-age people. In virtuo exposure could be employed to improve the efficacy of CBT with exposure sessions in the treatment of late-life anxiety? The current paper explores this question and suggests new research avenues.

Type
Review Article
Copyright
Copyright © International Psychogeriatric Association 2014 

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