Program for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Studies

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Virtual Reality Fact Sheet

Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy

Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET) has been found to be an effective and efficient treatment method for anxiety and stress disorders caused by specific events and situations. Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy provides both exposure-based therapeutic procedures and anxiety management techniques, the two most effective types of therapy for phobias and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

VRET Therapeutic Techniques

  • Exposure-based therapeutic procedures include:
  • Imagining the scary situation
  • Talking about the scary situation
  • Gradually experiencing the scary situation with a trained psychologist in a safe environment through in vivo exposure with Virtual Reality
  • Anxiety management techniques include:
  • Learning skills to control fear
  • Breathing retraining
  • Relaxation training
  • Patients are introduced to virtual reality only when their psychologist decides they are ready for in vivo exposure to the situation which causes them fear and/or anxiety. Exposure begins gradually and is set at a pace designed specifically for each patient. During virtual reality exposure sessions patients wear a head-mounted display with stereo earphones that provide visual and audio cues consistent with their feared situation. In some cases a moving platform is also used.

The Program for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Studies

The Program for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Studies (PATSS) incorporates Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy in the treatment of a number of anxiety and stress-related disorders including fear of flying, fear of storms, fear of heights, fear of bridges, fear of public speaking, and World Trade Center-induced Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Our psychologists are specially trained traumatic stress experts who have extensive experience in the treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and anxiety. Our Virtual Reality treatment program uses state-of-the-art technology to augment a base of therapeutic approaches known to be highly effective in treating PTSD, anxiety, and phobias.

Program Director: JoAnn Difede, Ph.D. is an expert in the assessment and treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. She developed and has directed the Accident and Injury Recovery Program, a specialty program for the treatment of PTSD and related psychiatric problems following accidents and physical injury, at the New York Presbyterian Hospital since 1997. As an attending psychologist, she is a consultant to the New York Presbyterian Hospital Burn Center for all inpatients and ambulatory patients who require evaluation and treatment for the psychological sequelae to burns.


To learn more about our program or to schedule an appointment please call (212) 821-0783 or visit our website at

Manhattan Offices

425 East 61st Street
New York, NY 10065

435 East 70th Street
New York, NY 10021

Westchester Office

21 Bloomingdale Road
White Plains, NY 10605