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Research Spotlight: How Self-Guided VRET Could Facilitate Faster Results for Clients

oVRcome has been built with everyone in mind. Our independent users can benefit from low-cost, remote therapy, and now it’s never been easier for therapists and clinicians to integrate virtual reality exposure therapy into their practice.

Our Clinician Portal allows you to provide your clients with additional exposure therapy between sessions, and even engage fully remote clients. With oVRcome, you can support more people than ever before.

But you might be wondering about the efficacy of these self-guided sessions, prompting the question: can VRET as homework facilitate faster results for your clients?

We’re committed to demonstrating the efficacy of our programs, for both users and clinicians. Our own clinical trial [1], published in the Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry in 2022, found that self-guided VRET was effective for people with a fear of flying, heights, spiders, dogs and needles. Importantly, oVRcome provided a long-lasting reduction in specific phobia symptoms.

Today we will look at the work of a group of researchers based in Nottingham and London, UK, who explored the power of self-guided VRET in individuals with public-speaking anxiety. This adds to the growing body of evidence demonstrating the transformative power of VRET, both for in-person and remote therapy sessions, and as an additional tool for clinicians to prescribe as homework between sessions.

The Effectiveness of Self-Guided Virtual-Reality Exposure Therapy 

Virtual reality exposure therapy is safe, effective, and it’s loved by clients because of the control they feel when undertaking exposure therapy from the comfort of their own homes. It’s also a valuable addition to any professional practice, allowing clinicians to expand their offerings, see more clients and get results faster.

This research [2] aimed to determine the benefits of self-guided VRET to those suffering from public speaking anxiety. Let’s dive in and see what they found.


The study followed 32 university students with high self-reported public speaking anxiety. These students were recruited from a wider pool of 336 students and were selected based on their high scores on the  Speech Anxiety Thoughts Inventory (SATI).

Notably, out of 32 initial applicants, 27 finished the course of VRET: a competition rate of 84.375%. As an aside, this demonstrates another benefit of virtual reality exposure — high completion rates and a higher acceptability rate, when compared to in-vivo treatment. Virtual reality exposure is perceived as safe — clients are more willing to undertake it, and push themselves within it.

The participants had twice-weekly sessions of self-guided VRET targeting their public speaking anxiety, with each session requiring the delivery of a 20-minute speech to a virtual classroom. Throughout the speech, participants had control of four variables in the simulation and could adjust 1) audience size, 2) audience reaction, 3) number of speech prompts, and 4) their own prominence in the virtual classroom at 4-minute intervals.


At each of these intervals, self-reported anxiety and arousal were measured alongside heart rate. In addition, participants completed psychometric assessments after each session and were subject to a further evaluation one month after the completion of the course of VRET.


Firstly, participants were found to engage enthusiastically with the treatment: on average, participants chose to increase the intensity to all four available elements of social threat throughout the sessions.

Secondly, participants were found to have both a reduction in heart rate and self-reported anxiety and arousal. These improvements in public speaking anxiety were evident immediately post-treatment and remained in place at the psychometric assessment one month later.

Self-Guided VRET and Clinican-Led VRET Can Coexist

In the paper, the researchers outlined that one reason for the efficacy of self-guided VRET is the perceived control it gives to those undertaking such treatment. This perception encourages clients to engage with therapy, it increases resilience to stress [3], and positively impacts cognitive reappraisal [4]. In individuals with arachnophobia, it has been found that a higher level of perceived control encourages the person to approach the perceived threat [5]. 

Meanwhile, therapist-led VRET is still an essential component of individual recovery from specific phobias and anxiety disorders. The guidance of a therapist in arranging exposure hierarchies and providing supplementary CBT is invaluable in preparing clients for in-vivo exposure, and in tackling the most severe phobias and anxiety.

Wrapping Up

The study showed conclusive results: self-guided VRET is effective, and it can provide a powerful supplementary tool for clients struggling with public speaking anxiety. Subjectively, the students had a positive response to the treatment, with one student telling the researchers:

I did a presentation last week. While I was still anxious and I found my heart pounded, I definitely noticed a difference! I didn't stutter and I was able to look my audience in the eyes. I'm definitely still anxious with presentations, but it's made me more able to face them.

Your clients can have the same response: VRET can be integrated into your practice with the oVRcome portal, opening up a world of opportunities for your clients and your clinical practice. Try it today and add your first client completely free.


1. Lacey, C., Frampton, C., & Beaglehole, B. (2022). OVRcome – Self-guided virtual reality for specific phobias: A randomised controlled trial. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry.

2. Premkumar, P. et al (2021). The Effectiveness of Self-Guided Virtual-Reality Exposure Therapy for Public-Speaking Anxiety. Frontiers in Psychiatry, Volume 12.

3. Bhanji J, Kim E, Delgado M. Perceived control alters the effect of acute stress on persistence. J Exp Psychol. (2016) 145:356–65. doi: 10.1037/xge0000137

4. Fishman EJ, Husman J. Extending attribution theory: considering students' perceived control of the attribution process. J Educ Psychol. (2017) 109:559–73. doi: 10.1037/edu0000158

5. Healey A, Mansell W, Tai S. An experimental test of the role of control in spider fear. J Anxiety Disord. (2017) 49:12–20. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2017.03.005

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