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Patients with generalized social anxiety disorder (SAD) avoid various social situations and can be reluctant to engage in in vivo exposure therapy. Highly personalized practising can be required before patients are ready to perform in vivo exposure. Virtual reality-based therapy could be beneficial for this group.
To assess the feasibility and potential effect of virtual reality-based cognitive behavioural therapy (VR-CBT) for patients with severe generalized SAD.
Fifteen patients with generalized SAD attended up to 16 VR-CBT sessions. Questionnaires on clinical and functional outcomes, and diary assessments on social activity, social anxiety and paranoia were completed at baseline, post-treatment and at 6-months follow-up.
Two patients dropped out of treatment. Improvements in social anxiety and quality of life were found at post-treatment. At follow-up, depressive symptoms had decreased, and the effect on social anxiety was maintained. With respect to diary assessments, social anxiety in company and paranoia were significantly reduced by post-treatment. These improvements were maintained at follow-up. No increase was observed in social activity.
This uncontrolled pilot study demonstrates the feasibility and treatment potential of VR-CBT in a difficult-to-treat group of patients with generalized SAD. Results suggest that VR-CBT may be effective in reducing anxiety as well as depression, and can increase quality of life.
Psychiatric rehabilitation (PR) can improve functioning in people with severe mental illness (SMI), but outcomes are still suboptimal. Cognitive impairments have severe implications for functioning and might reduce the effects of PR. It has been demonstrated that performance in cognitive tests can be improved by cognitive remediation (CR). However, there is no consistent evidence that CR as a stand-alone intervention leads to improvements in real-life functioning. The present study investigated whether a combination of PR and CR enhances the effect of a stand-alone PR or CR intervention on separate domains of functioning.
A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of PR combined with CR in people with SMI was conducted, reporting on functioning outcomes. A multivariate meta-regression analysis was carried out to evaluate moderator effects.
The meta-analysis included 23 studies with 1819 patients. Enhancing PR with CR had significant beneficial effects on vocational outcomes (e.g. employment rate: SMD = 0.41), and social skills (SMD = 0.24). No significant effects were found on relationships and outcomes of community functioning. Effects on vocational outcomes were moderated by years of education, intensity of the intervention, type of CR approach and integration of treatment goals for PR and CR. Type of PR was no significant moderator.
Augmenting PR by adding cognitive training can improve vocational and social functioning in patients with SMI more than a stand-alone PR intervention. First indications exist that a synergetic mechanism also works the other way around, with beneficial effects of the combined intervention compared with a stand-alone CR intervention.
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