Novel treatment options for eating disorders (EDs) are critically needed to enhance treatment outcomes and reduce the rates of treatment dropouts. On average, only 50% of individuals receiving evidence-based care remit, whereas 24% drop out before treatment completion. One particularly promising direction involves integrating virtual reality (VR) with existing evidence-based treatments (EBTs) such as cue exposure therapy (CET). Across psychiatric disorders, VR-based interventions are demonstrating at least preliminary efficacy and noninferiority to traditional treatments. Furthermore, VR technology has become increasingly portable, resulting in improved acceptance, increased access, and reductions in cost. However, more efficient research processes may be needed to uncover the potential benefits of these rapid technological advances. This viewpoint paper reviews existing empirical support for integrating VR with EBTs (with a focus on its use with EDs) and proposes key next steps to more rapidly bring this innovative technology-based intervention into real-world clinic settings, as warranted. VR-CET for EDs is used to illustrate a suggested process for developing such treatment enhancements. We recommend following a deployment-focused model of intervention development and testing to enable rapid implementation of robust, practice-ready treatments. In addition, our review highlights the need for a comprehensive clinical protocol that supports clinicians and researchers in the implementation and testing of VR-CET and identifies key missing protocol components with rationale for their inclusion. Ultimately, this work may lead to a more complete understanding of the full potential of the applications and integrations of VR into mental health care globally.
View details for DOI 10.2196/16386
View details for PubMedID 32324145